When a bunch of Tel-Avivians, among them four journalists, one real estate agent, a cult folk musician, a single mother and a former Eurovision star, gather in an apartment in the city's Yemenite quarter, it can only mean one thing: that they are about to stage a play in Israel's largest sewege treatment plant.
"Kadima!" by Roy Chicky Arad (the guy in blue) was already staged twice in more concievable surroundings: Tzavta theatre and the Barzilai club. This Saturday night it participates in the first art event to take place among Tel-Aviv's filtering pools. It will be featured in "Redemption through the Gutters", a large scale artfest curated by the extra-talented Galya Yahav. (Here's the Facebook event, for all details.)
It may seem unethical for me, as a theatre critic, to function as an actor, so I'll hurry up and confirm: I would have given this show a dreadful review. It's a big anarchic mess, no one knows their lines (we're reading them off the page), most jokes are dreadfully juvenile, and the songs took thirty seconds to compose - I know this for a fact. I composed them.
But Kadima! (Hebrew for "onwards", but also the name of the Israel's major center-right party) does have one thing going for it: It makes one hell of a punishing political statement, and it does so in the rustic spirit of true satire.
The story is that of Tzvika Ofer (Yuval Segev), an IDF colonel whose negligance led to the breakout of the second Lebanese war. Ofer, scolded in Israel, escapes to Mexico and works there as military consultant for a dubius regieme. Then he meets a witch.
The witch tells him that she can send him back to one moment in his past. Ofer, cynical at first, finally decides to return to the days before the war's outbreak and prevent it. His wish is fulfilled, history is reversed. Elyakim Firstater (Moshe Ferster), the simpleton sodier who's abduction kicked off the war, is safe.
For lack of war, Ofer is discharged from the army and becomes CEO of the Trilanium weapons company, producers of a radium-spiked bomb called "The Smasher". Firstater himself gets a job there as a bomb-painter. sometimes fate just binds us with the wrong people.
Problem is, with no war in sight, the smasher has no market. The owners of Trilanium count on Ofer to produce one. When he learns of it, from the company's Chief Financial Officer, Benny Guetta (yours truly), he is in denial.
Ofer: but the IDF couldn't use the Smasher, the border is quiet.
Guetta: The folks at the Brussels office were hoping you could perk the IDF up.
Ofer: There was no war.
Guetta: This is solvable.
Guetta: It's solvable, this lack of war, this endless wait for something to happen.
Ofer (loudly): They were expecting for me to arrange a war?
Guetta: There's no need to shout, let's speak softly.
Ofer: They wanted me to start a war? with whom?
Gueatta: Look, I am against wars, I hate wars. I was on the square where Rabin died, when they took him away from us. Then again, some situations are win-win. Let's imagine the "Smasher" were a success on the battlefield. It would have given it great promotion - advertisements on BBC, on AL-Jezirah... we could start a production line for the Smasher that could export abroad. People hear the word "war" and get startled, it's a real holy cow. But who could lose in such a war? If the Smasher works well, we may end up exporting it even to moderate Arab nations, like Morrocco or Jordan. It could improve our relationship with them and maybe even contribute to peace.
Ofer: The war?
Gueatta: Yes! War today isn't what you think, Tzvika, it's like peace, like peace - but with a dividend. Look at me, do I want war? Do I want battlefields? Do I want widdows and orphans? You know I'm left-leaning. No one wants war, but on the other hand, it's not a good idea to be stuck with marchendise.
At the end of the day, our bunch of clowns is a somber bunch. We've been through that war and we'll be through the next one, and the next one. Forever we shall be told that our security is the issue and that our army is the "Israeli Defence Forces", by those who pocket the dough. No dough for us, we play for nothing, just as we'll probably die for nothing sooner or later.