Palestinian Actor Ahmed Tobasi is an enthusiastic and energetic performer who provides an absolute treat for the senses within his one-man production of ‘And Here I Am’. He quite literally throws his arms open to the audience and welcomes them in. Grinning and wide eyed, he takes his audience through the narrative of his life story: a football loving child in a Palestinian refugee camp in Jenin in the West Bank; his first love; his friends; riding a motorbike for the first time; testing out an AK-47 for the first time… He joins the Islamic Jihad as a resistance fighter and then spends four hellish years in an Israeli prison where his mental health declines. However, Tobasi is one of the lucky ones, after prison he found the theatre and learnt that quite literally that the stage can be as powerful as an AK47.
Stage space and props are used to their maximum potential in this production. When Tobasi is taken to a prison in the middle of the desert sand is poured over the stage. When he talks about having a bath, he stands in a bucket of water. Jenin is a beautiful place with “bags of garbage everywhere”, Tobasi quite literally drags these around his performance space. Lighting and sound by Andy Purves and Max Pappenheim is simply designed but incredibly effective with some very clever sound effects that are more common within bigger scale productions.
This is an incredibly honest and a quite literal example of theatrical storytelling, politically themed and addressing the terror of death, radicalisation and war. However, it also addresses hope, beauty and art and a life without limitations.
‘And Here I Am’ tells us that “Theatre is a serious weapon; you can use it change how people think”. Without doubt Tobasi proves this with his performance. He is an accomplished and generous performer, sure of his narrative which he presents with total confidence in a language that his not his own, through many rapidly changing scenes. He is warm and has a presence that pulls in the audience. When the performance was over it was shocking to see how much time had passed (80 minutes to be precise) as Tobasi’s infectious personality left us wanting to hear and see more.
Highly recommended contemporary theatre which continues around UK venues throughout July. For tickets and more information, visit: www.AndHereIAm.co.uk
Reviewer: Alan Stuart Malin
Reviewed: 12th July 2017
This review was originally written for North West End. North West End Rating: ★★★★★