Ali and Dahlia at the Pleasance Theatre
In his writing debut, actor-playwright Tariq Jordan draws on his dual Arab-Muslim and European-Jewish heritage to tell the story of Ali, a Palestinian who has been arrested for rioting after the US opens its embassy in Jerusalem. As he awaits trial, the protagonist is introduced to his defence lawyer, with whom he has a shared history. Using the backgrounds and experiences of both characters, Jordan paints a complicated and nuanced picture of Palestinian-Israeli relations on both a national and interpersonal scale.
The intimacy of Jordan’s writing is hard to miss. He includes personal details along with funny and tender moments to great effect. This is paired with great performances, especially from Waj Ali, who is simultaneously buffoonish, charming and tragic in the lead role. The show also does admirably to connect the personal to the political without seeming preachy or minimising the characters to symbols or stand-ins for bigger themes.
There may be a degree of over-ambition, however, in the play’s scope. The amount of time and topics covered does come at the expense of plot. Occasionally, it seems more like a series of vignettes than a single narrative – especially with the inclusion of a third character who is not present but periodically cut to. This lack of direction does the story a disservice, as the wait for a weighty trial loses the urgency it deserves and even a last-minute twist does not inject the tension it strives for.
Overall, however, this is an interesting production that uses the immersive space of the Pleasance Downstairs smartly. Although this may not have been as sharp as it could have been, it definitely sets Jordan up as an interesting new voice.
Image: Steve Gregson
Ali and Dahlia is at the Pleasance Theatre from 26th March until 14th April 2019. For further information or to book visit the theatre’s website here.