Flawed, stalling, but occasionally extraordinary, At Home in Gaza and London is an ambitious multimedia piece combining simultaneous performances in the UK and Palestine with live and prerecorded video.
Comparisons with Hannah Khalil’s Scenes from 68* Years – which ran at the Arcola Theatre in 2016 – are inevitable. Both productions discuss everyday life in Gaza, both prominently feature live video links, but here the technological elements are sharply foregrounded, the human stories decidedly domestic.
Performers in different countries, spliced together on a large screen, share conversations about marriage, favourite movies, and hopes for a better life. As much as the show plays on universal experiences, it also intelligently confronts the dissonance between liberal and conservative cultures, the differences of living in relative safety or perpetual danger.
Unavoidably, technical problems arise, with glitchy video and garbled lines almost derailing the performance. Fortunately, the flexible, responsive cast fill these moments with pointed jokes about the untranslatable-ness of language and the difficulties of creating a play with only four hours of electricity each day. Amongst them, Ali Al-Hassany’s commentary stands out, filled with frustration and a poignant yearning to create work where he isn’t portrayed solely as a victim of oppression.
Co-directors Julian Maynard Smith and Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso keep a tight rein on a show which could easily become chaotic, synchronising their performer’s movements down to the inch. When it all comes together, objects are seemingly seamlessly passed from one location to another, while dancers interact intently across an immense physical gulf.