‘Camouflage’ by Ahmed Masoud
Review by Rosa Pérez
Clever, daring, moving and funny – Ahmed Masoud’s new play ‘Camouflage’ shows what really matters to young Palestinians living under occupation today.
On Thursday 18 May, acclaimed Palestinian writer, Ahmed Masoud presented his new dark comedy play ‘Camouflage’ for one night only at Amnesty International in London. The play marked the 69th anniversary of the Nakba and the 50th anniversary of the Israeli military occupation in Gaza, Jerusalem and the West Bank – Palestine, looking at the issues that really matter for young people.
A collage of four different stories, Camouflage looks at the experience of Thaer, a young Palestinian refugee from the Yarmouk Refugee Camp trying to flee the conflict in Syria on a boat. Something is troubling him and it is not the fact that he might drown any minute. Nibal, a young girl in Ramallah, is not worried about the regular incursions of the Israeli army in town but something bursts the bubble she has been living in. Zeid, a taxi driver in Gaza who explores the dating scene and Sami is an aspiring actor in Haifa who has to come to terms with the unjust society he lives in.
Four different stories performed by one actor. This sounded very interesting and challenging to me when I first read the synopsis of ‘Camouflage’. Ahmed Masoud undertook this creative risk trusting the mission to actor James El-Sharawy. After witnessing James’ outstanding performance at ‘Camouflage’ it seems to me that Masoud’s risky choice turned out to be a successful and worthwhile one.
James El-Sharawy’s performance of ‘Camouflage’ was flawless. A very versatile actor, James’ acting went in crescendo and as one member of the audience put it: ‘he decided he was going to nail it and he did.’ His energy, his flexible body movements, his face expressions were very engaging and he made the audience laugh out loud.
His touches of cockney accent when interpreting the role of the taxi driver emulated the Gazan street slang and style. At some point, he made a dramatic pause and threw an ‘INNIT’? That cracked everyone up and managed to transport the audience to the back seat of Zeid’s taxi driving in the streets of Jabalia Camp.
‘Camouflage’ is a very well-directed play with a fantastic script. The narration flows naturally and its rhythm doesn’t let you off the hook for a second. The way stories are told and interweaved is extremely smart and is testament of Ahmed Masoud’s incredible talent.
The director’s imagination, inspired by real accounts of young Palestinians today, resulted in the creation of characters and stories that are both accessible and peculiar, deep and funny. Like the little kid reflecting on the different swear words and their sexual connotations, the Palestinian prisoner who manages to get his wife pregnant while being in jail or the nuts and bolts of a taxi driver exploring Tinder to find himself a date in Gaza, to name a few.
The ending of the play was a short choreographed piece that recapped the movement of all scenes – a risky choice which divided the opinion of the audience afterwards, but for me it worked very well.
‘Camouflage’ shows how common human issues, such as sexuality, flirting, marrying, wanting to be famous and successful, take a whole other level in the context of living under occupation in Palestine.
The morning before the play, I saw a tweet by @masoud_ahmed saying ‘Prepping’ with a picture of the set: a bright orange inflatable boat standing vertically, pieces of fabric with patterns dividing the stage in four parts. It was very appealing visually and made me very curious. The vibrant colours and the choice of props gave the set a young, pop, clean and fresh look that matched perfectly the mood and tone of the play. It was clear that the Play’s designer, Clio Capelle, opted for a simple yet imaginative set.
The choices of tunes complemented the mood beautifully as well, especially the ‘baladi’ song playing as we get on Ziad’s taxi in Gaza. It literally feels as if you have just stopped the taxi in the street and you can hear the tune at full volume coming out of the windows.
The play finished and the audience didn’t hesitate to rise from their seats to give a standing ovation. Ahmed Masoud’s use of different theatre techniques, humour and storytelling together with James Sharawy’s phenomenal performance make ‘Camouflage’ a -must-watch play. You don’t need to know much about Palestine to enjoy it, be moved by it and find it extremely funny. A daring play with a deep message conveyed brilliantly through great storytelling and humour; a real eye opener.
I really hope that ‘Camouflage’ gets the attention and the tour it deserves so many people get to see it.
Alf Mabrouk, Ahmed.
Five starts *****
Photo credit: Ho-Chih Lin