by Lynn on October 13, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Live and in person at the Donmar Warehouse, London, Eng. Limited run to Dec. 3, 2022. 1 hour 40 minutes, no intermission.

Music and lyrics by David Yazbek

Book by Itamar Moses

Directed by Michael Longhurst

Musical supervisor, Nigel Lilley

Designer, Soutra Gilmour

Lighting by Anna Watson

Sound by Paul Groothuis

Choreographer, Movement and Intimacy Director, Yarit Dor

Video Designer, Zakk Hein

Musical Director, Tarek Merchant

Cast: Alon Moni Aboutboul

Sargon Yelda

Sharif Afifi

Carlos Mendoza De Hevia

Miri Mesika

Marc Antolin

Harel Glazer

Michal Horowicz

Peter Polycarpou

Levi Goldmeier

Yali Topol Margalith

Maya Kristal Tenenbaum

Ido Gonen

Ashley Margolis

And the brilliant Band:

Andy Findon-Woodwind

Ant Romeo-Percussion

Idlir Shyti-Cello

Baha Yetkin-Oud

Nicki Davenport-Double Bass

Luke Baxter-Percussion

Ah what a difference a letter makes in a name. The Alexandrian Ceremonial Police Orchestra from Egypt, was booked to play at the opening ceremonies of the Egyptian Cultural Centre in Pet Hatikva. They arrived by plane with their instruments wearing their smart, powder blue uniforms, waiting to be met. No one came. So, one of them was instructed to go to the ticket office and get a bus ticket. He did. They arrived in Bet Hatikva. The wrong place by one letter.

In Bet Hatikva, they are told by the residents there, all they do is wait for something to happen. Bet Hatikva is nowhere. Nothing happens there. There is a block of flats and a café and perhaps a pub. But they wait. Bet Hatikva “B” as in Bull Shit, “Boring”. Etc.

“Waiting” is a mournful, slow number that sets up the tone, pace, idea, attitude and sense of longing of the place. It’s sung by the residence who wait. It’s wonderful, funny and moving.

Dina (Miri Mesika) owns the café. Tewfiq (Alon Moni Aboutboul) is the prim, proper conductor. He graciously asks her to see when the next bus is. She makes a call. The next bus is the next day. There is no hotel. But the band is invited to stay with various residence, and Dina opens the café so they can also rest there. The Israelis and the Egyptians eye each other with a cool respect. Tewfiq instructs his orchestra to be respectful and proper at all times because they are representing their country and their orchestra. I loved that.

The residents and the musicians bond over music, food and similar stories. Dina and Tewfiq have individual troubled backgrounds and of course it looks like they can bond into something more serious, even after one day. They tell their stories gradually. Dina sings the music of a popular singer in Egypt. People joined by the love of music.

I love this musical—really a play with music–that so captures the life of longing and waiting, the hopes of something better, music that soothes the soul. And the ‘orchestra’ plays music from Egypt that is thrilling, vibrant, lively and as brisk as the songs of the residents of this poky Israeli town is slow, somber, and mournful.

The acting is wonderful. As Dina, Miri Mesika is sultry, watchful, gently sarcastic and has a strong voice that makes her songs soar. As Tewfiq, the very correct conductor of the orchestra, Alon Moni Aboutboul is the embodiment of a man who has the weight of his country and orchestra on his sturdy shoulders. When he sings a song of moonlight it is deeply felt. His voice is deep and rich and when he finishes it is with a sigh, and a snap down of his jacket to smooth it out. Loved that touch. When he thanks Dina for her kindness to let them stay, his voice cracks a touch with emotion, that just startled me. This wonderful show is full of such moments.

Michael Longhurst directs with a fine sense of the starkness of the place. Much of the action is done on a revolve in which furniture is put on it to represent a home. People crowd into it. Other areas of Soutra Gilmour’s set are long levels at the back where the band sits etc. They are grey, like the place.

But the message is of friendship, music, bonding, healing, awareness of the other and the power of how a song can lift an aching heart. The absolute best way of beginning a short London trip.

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