THE SHROUD MAKER at Greenwich Theatre
The tragedy of Gaza and the West Bank is one of the most contentious issues of our times, which makes it an ideal subject for dramatists. The problem for writers, though, is how to approach an apparently intractable political problem without resort to polemic and propaganda.
Ahmed Masoud has resolved the difficulty in The Shroud Maker – playing at Greenwich Theatre till 28th February – by telling a wonderfully human story that acts as a stunning microcosm of the nightmare that has gripped the region for so long.
Julia Tarnoky brilliantly plays an 84-year-old Palestinian woman, Souad, who looks back on a life that covers some of the key moments in the recent history of the Middle East – the British withdrawal after the Second World War, the Six-Day War and the 1987 and 2000 intifadas.
Souad – who is based on a real person Masoud once saw in a media interview - loses her own family in the decades of violence but defiantly refuses to be bowed and manages to survive by sewing funeral shrouds for the grieving families of the dead.
And such is her never-say-die spirit she never loses her sense of humour, which gives what could be an irredeemably bleak tale an amazing emotional honesty as well as light relief.
Tarnoky gives a performance that is astonishing in its depth while Masoud, many of whose own relatives are still trapped in Gaza, has given us a work that is heartbreaking, funny and informative all at the same time.
This is theatre-making of the highest order and an early contender for show of the year. I urge you to see it.