Sahand Sahebdivani is of Iranian descent, while Raphael Rodan's family is Israeli. Together they tell a series of stories, attempting to answer the question: Why do men make war? Brought up in Amsterdam, the two men are friends, but their journey to adulthood involves understanding their identity through the eyes of their fathers and forefathers. One is a Jew, the other an Arab – and while they try to frame their debate in a European context, their own ethnic and racial heritage may not let them go.
The two men present scenes from World War I, which I read as a good humoured-protest against the arrogance of European democracies. It’s a gentle challenge to anyone who believes the carnage of the Middle East could never occur in Europe – history, and our own bloody past, shows that this view is unfounded. And it was arguably the peace settlements after the two World Wars which exacerbated tensions between Iran, Israel and Palestine.
It’s very sad that Sahebdivani and Rodan still feel the need to ask the question: “Are wars in men’s DNA in the Middle East?” Another way to frame this question is to ask: are men born to fight or is there another way? And what of heroism, which we may be able to break down into simple acts of kindness – is this not what humanity is all about? Sahebdivani and Rodan also have an interesting take on gender stereotypes, and romantic interludes offer light relief.
Musical accompaniment from Guillermo Celano and Iman Spaargaren is evocative, and adds to the dramatic power of the show. Vasile Nedelcu's direction is also good, and it's no surprise the production was a gold award winner at the Amsterdam Fringe Festival.
While aware of their ethnic heritage, the actors are Dutch (with impeccable English): they are young men seeking love, friendship and purpose, ‘an atom bomb of peace.’ Like many in war-torn countries across the globe – and Europeans, too – they observe the futility of war. But can they and their ancestral countrymen move on from it? And what exactly is nationality?