Friday, December 21, 2012

Theatre Review: 'Delivered At Last'

"According to the Jerusalem Post, 5,000 schoolchildren were to gather in the main square in Tel Aviv and smash their war toys with hammers. In exchange they would get goodies and peace toys. The first war toy would be smashed by the city's mayor. For all we know it could be a plastic F-111 from a cereal carton. Simon Louvish read the story out loud. 'I can't write satire about Israel any longer,' he said. 'It's not possible - all you need do is report.'" (Jewish jokes no laughing matter, Hugh Hebert, The Guardian Weekly, 1986)

The latest 're-enactment' - Delivered At Last - by the consummate drama queens over at Chutzpah Productions Inc., is a worthy successor to their earlier production, United In Battle.

As with the latter, Delivered At Last was rightly accorded front page treatment in last week's edition of The Australian Jewish News. (Who could possibly forget, in the AJN of November 9, the tear-inducing cover photograph showing a party of Australian Light Horse Association pilgrims, clad in imperial clobber, sitting astride their neddies and proudly carrying Australian and Israeli flags before the gates of Beersheba - sorry, Beersheva? Who could forget the paper's pulse-racing headline, United in battle, and the spine-stiffening text which followed: "Ninety-five years after the Australian cavalry defeated the Ottoman Turks in the Battle of Beersheva, the landmark charge of the 4th Light Horse Brigade was re-enacted in modern-day Israel. The event re-emphasised the historic ties between the two countries"? Ah, golden memories...)

Not to be outdone this time around, the AJN of December 14 featured four descendants of 30s Aboriginal activist William Cooper, ranging in age from the teenage to the eighty-something, standing solemnly against a backdrop of Aboriginal and Israeli flags.

Delivered at last trumpets the banner headline, which is followed by the words: "In 1938, Aboriginal leader William Cooper was turned away when attempting to deliver a petition to the German Consulate protesting the treatment of European Jewry in the wake of Kristallnacht. Last week, his grandson tried again..."

On page 3, under the header Righting a past wrong, we are reminded of the now familiar story* of how, on December 6, 1938, the 77-year-old Cooper led a protest march to the German Consulate in Melbourne where a 2,000 signature petition, protesting the 'cruel persecution' of Jews in Germany, was refused by the German consul-general.

[*Familiar at least to readers of this blog. See my posts on the lobby's first William Cooper production: Insufficiently Righteous (2/8/10); Record Rambam (25/10/10); The ABC of Zionist Propaganda (12/12/10).]

The AJN then goes on to describe the 're-enactment' as follows:

"Last Thursday, Jewish, indigenous and other Australians walked in Cooper's footsteps - from Footscray to the city - with Cooper's 84-year-old grandson Uncle Boydie Turner joining the crowd to deliver a replica of his grandfather's petition to Germany's honorary consul-general, Michael Pearce. An estimated 30 people began the walk at Footscray, with another 180 joining en route as they marched on the former address of the German embassy at Collins Street. Cooper's great-great-grandson, Kevin Russell, was at the front of the pack waving a trio of flags - Aboriginal, Australian and Israeli - which were bunched at the top, where a Magen David was attached. Some protesters carried a placard protesting Nazism. At the completion of the walk, the crowd streamed onto the steps of the former German embassy (which now houses a restaurant and law offices). Cameras took aim and all fell silent as an emotional Turner, donning a royal blue Jewish National Fund peak hat, read the petition aloud: 'We protest wholeheartedly the cruel persecution of the Jewish people by the Nazi government in Germany.' Accepting the petition, Pearce disparaged the former German consul-general. 'I am pleased to right the wrong committed by the German consul on this spot exactly 74 years ago when he refused to accept the original from Turner's grandfather, William Cooper,' he said. Pearce is awaiting a formal response to the petition from the German Foreign Office."

While the above description of the march reveals an explicit Israeli connection, a feature too of CPI's earlier production, their restraint in not including a contingent of gun-toting IDF terrorists, or a (death) squad of Australian passport-toting Mossad agents, or even a Merkava tank or three, is an indication of the company's professionalism, irresistable as these touches must have been for them

I note in passing CPI's use of that magic crowd-swelling technique whereby the initial 30-something marchers were joined at strategic intervals, presumably out of side streets, by other groups of like-minded individuals who just happened to be carrying the appropriate placards and flags. Why was their no musical accompaniment, though? Certainly, there is no mention above of what should have been obligatory, the old shofar and drum, the volume and tempo of which could have been upped in the style of Ravel's Bolero with each new addition to the procession, thus adding immeasurably to the drama of  it all.

It is left to the AJN's editorialist to spell out the show's moral significance. Under the stirring title When good men stand up, we read:

"Thanks to Cooper, there exists a genuine affinity between the Aboriginal and Jewish communities that has yielded some surprising results. Just last week an Israeli educational program, which is being used in Australia to lessen the literacy and numeracy gap between indigenous and non-indigenous Australians in rural communities, was celebrated, while Jewish advocacy for Aboriginal rights has become commonplace. One of the themes often discussed in Jewish circles is that Jews, with our first-hand knowledge of persecution, are obliged to advocate on behalf of the world's persecuted and promote peace, tolerance and love."

But, needless to say, 'good' without 'evil' is a bit like your yin without your yang, somehow lacking, and so the canny editorialist, in tune with his audience, wheels out Australian Zionism's Devil du jour, CPACS' Professor Jake Lynch - "an unashamed supporter of the global Boycott, Divestment & Sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel" - under the - you guessed it! - title When bad men stand up.

Now how neat is that? It's three cheers for William Cooper and interminable boos and hisses for Jake Lynch.

A final word on Delivered At Last. Some reviewers - certainly not I! - may quibble that the entire production, with its Israeli props, smacks of little more than the shameless appropriation and exploitation of the memory and legacy of a remarkable indigenous Australian, with the sole aim  being to distract its audience from Israel's crimes against another indigenous people. Some may even go so far as to claim that - and how far-fetched is this? - it is part of a desperate attempt by Israel's  fifth columnists in Australia to project their brutal settler-colonial venture in Palestine as a legitimate, indeed indigenous, striving for self-determination in an ancient homeland.

But enough of such churlishness, if the AJN says "Jewish circles" are out there flashing the peace sign, singing All You Need Is Love, and ministering to the needs of the wretched of the earth, who am I to disagree? And anyway,  tis the season to be jolly, no?

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Theater of the Absurd!