Gaza. Emotive word. People are mostly polarized when it comes to the subject of Israel and Palestine. While I acknowledge that there is wrong on both sides I have a bias and it is not generally in favour of Palestine. I was, accordingly quite nervous about attending a rehearsal of this work, written and directed by Eliot Moleba, a young artist who has already impressed me with his skills and his willingness to engage with tough material. I expected The Orphan of Gaza to offend, to challenge, to provoke me ideologically. It did none of those things. It reached out and touched me gently on the cheek, appealing to me to see and feel the human tragedy of a little boy, Mohamed (Nidaa Husain), whose doctor parents have been killed by a rocket, and whose uncle has left him with a friend, Amina (Megan van Wyk).
Mohamed and his pet puppet, Mo, build a rocket so that they can set out to find Mohamed’s parents in that “better place” his parents have gone to. The story is for children, and it unfolds simplistically, but without too many lies. It is a story of death and destruction in a war zone, but it is also one of hope and courage that is curiously suited to young people, and one is drawn into the characters trauma empathetically, but without any maudlin sentiment or manipulation.
This production is brought to you by The SAW Project, an international collaboration between South Africa and France. It will premiere in Johannesburg on 16 June 2015 before a short run in Cape Town and a short run at the National Arts Festival in Grahamstown under the auspices of ASSITEJ.
While this is essentially theatre for children, it is really theatre about a child, and adults should seriously consider seeing this interesting and poignant work.