Ballad of the Burning Star
A fusion of dance and cabaret tell the story of Israel
This article is from 2013.
Telling the story of the modern Israeli state through a semi-autobiographical story, Ballad of the Burning Star is far from light entertainment cabaret, despite the hero being in full drag and the constant accompaniment of chorus girls. Nir Paldi winds his tale towards a bitter finale, connecting contemporary Israeli paranoia both with Jewish history and its modern culture. While he has sympathy with the Palestinian victims of Israel’s occupation, he demonstrates how a society can be equally oppressive to the dominant people.
Theatre Ad Infinitum made their name in previous Fringes with stories of mourning and love (Translunar Paradise, The Big Smoke); Ballad of the Burning Star is more abrasive. Using the signifiers of cabaret – the main character is a drag queen called Star – Paldi expands the palette of his Lecoq physical theatre with tight choreography and a commanding stage presence.
Paldi’s blend of dance and kitsch drag is jarring against the seriousness of his subject. At first, he hides the violence of the state beneath this façade of ironic jollity, but his hero’s lack of emotional control increasingly manifests itself in the bullying of his chorus line. Occasional racial slurs, played for uncomfortable laughs, give way to a more poignant finale, in which Paldi’s Star is consumed by guilt and hate.
The persistent internal conflict between Israel’s suspicion of Arab and European aggression and the desire to live a peaceful, normal life is never resolved. Ballad of the Burning Star emphasises that there are no simple answers to the problems of Israel’s ongoing conflict with the Palestinians: history is played out on the bodies of the people who live in the country.
Pleasance Dome, 556 6550, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), £11–£13 (£8.50–£12)