Taha

Written & Performed by Amer Hlehel

Adelaide Festival 2018

David Faber reviews the performance

TAHA is the triumphant but not triumphalist story of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, refracted through the experience and artistry of Haifa based actor and dramatist Amer Hlehel. The performance we saw deservedly commanded several standing ovations and not a few tears of empathy and joy.

Essentially, it is the story of one dispossessed Palestinian, who had no wish to be invested by politics and history but was forced to experience the 1948 Catastrophe and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine. As such it is a subtle but profound lesson that if you do not take care of politics, history will take care of you.

Through a litany of losses both personal and collective, Taha is saved by poetry, from Darwish to Byron, both that in which he immersed himself from infancy and his own which emerged from this matrix.

This spare and elegant monologue, produced with simple lighting and only 3 props, saw Hlehel tribute a tender resilience in the face of adversity with poetic intonation and an eloquent and expressive economy of gesture which was as artful as it appeared artless.

In this tale of a successful odyssey through suffering to affirmation, we see encapsulated the creativity, courage, humanity and hope of an oppressed people.

David Faber is an historian and poet