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Fireworks (Al’ab Nariya)

Published 20 February 2015

What’s it all about?

Anyone who knows anything about Dalia Taha’s play – or indeed the work of the Royal Court – will know that this isn’t about fireworks: those showers of glittering sparks that light up the night sky and bring enjoyment and excitement to celebrations the world over.

No, this isn’t about that at all. The so-called fireworks are the Israeli bombs that fall around the Palestinian homes of 11-year-old Lubna and 12-year-old Khalil, whose parents have told them that they’re harmless pyrotechnic displays in an attempt to protect them from the reality.

Confined to their cramped apartments, the children cope with the boredom by playing out disturbing war scenarios, collecting dead pigeons and reconstructing graves of loved ones to replace those destroyed by air strikes.

Who’s in it?

Among the six-strong cast tasked with portraying the two households at the heart of Taha’s drama, Saleh Bakri exudes despair as a man trying to protect his family. Sirine Saba’s Nahla – a mother crippled with grief – is arguably the play’s most tragic character, finding comfort in the prospect of death and wanting to be the first to see her son in heaven.

While the adult performers, which also include Shereen Martin’s Samar and Nabil Elouahabi’s Ahmad, do well to convey the impacting tale on stage, it is the young actors who shine in Richard Twyman’s poignant production. Full of energy, Shakira Riddell-Morales’ Lubna and Yusuf Hofri’s Khalil ooze fearlessness and ambition, oblivious of the fragility of life as they strive to find activities to enjoy in the middle of a war zone.

What should I look out for?

Look out for the brief glimpses of humour that, like the fireworks of the play’s title, provide flashes of light in the play’s darkness. There aren’t many, and no sooner have you broken a smile than it fizzles away, bringing back the gravity of the situation. A prime example is Nahla’s response – “You’re going to have to live with this s**t all your life” – to Lubna starting her period; the audience laughs until realising the lack of explanation, compassion and emotion she shows her confused and traumatised daughter, which makes the moment all the more distressing.

In a nutshell?

Dalia Taha conjures a bleak and unsettling image of Palestine through snapshots of two families’ lives in the Royal Court’s latest opening in the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs.

What’s being said on Twitter?

@GaryLineker Just saw #fireworks @royalcourt . A moving, insightful look at family life in Palestine and what an unimaginably awful existence it must be.

@PatrickWMcB #Fireworks @royalcourt was brilliant. Beautifully written, directed & acted – even better than I’d hoped. Congrats Dalia Taha, @rptwy & cast

Will I like it?

If you like your theatre urgent, thought-provoking and downright devastating, the Jerwood Theatre Upstairs is the place to be over the next few weeks. Brought to the stage as part of the Royal Court’s international playwriting programme, the Palestinian conflict has been transported across continents to the London venue, where it’s hitting audiences square in the face with the horror and uncertainty facing those living in Gaza.  

Fireworks (Al’ab Nariya) is booking at the Royal Court until 14 March. You can book tickets through the venue’s website.


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