The past invades the present in Maya Arad Yasur’s play Amsterdam. A pregnant Israeli violinist living in modern-day Amsterdam receives a mysterious unpaid gas bill dating from the 1940s. The question of where this bill hails from, and why it remains unpaid, dominates the narrative which intercuts the woman’s own story with that of her flat’s previous owners.
Written as a text for multiple voices, Yasur’s play (performed here using a translation by Eran Edry) is a complex web of interlocking thoughts, reflections and memories. Taken as a whole, it feels like the collective voices of a group of people trying to decipher a puzzle or the quick-running inner monologue of a young woman trying to make sense of her place in the world. At its best, it sounds like both.
Matthew Xia’s production, his first as artistic director of the Actors Touring Company is delivered with force and noise, but less in the way of nuance. An irritatingly chipper tone often makes the words seem trite and the actors are constantly running to and fro across the stage in a way that is unhelpful – as is the raising of a fussy chain mail curtain midway through.
Of the four-person cast, Michal Horowicz stands out, managing to dilute the frenetic energy and conveying a variety of emotions, including the unnamed character’s anger at how others treat her.
Despite the sometimes frenzied tone, Yasur’s writing raises many interesting points about contemporary Jewish and Israeli identity, immigration into the Netherlands, the weight of the recent past and, ultimately, who is (or isn’t) footing the bill for what went before.