To Paisley Arts Centre to see a one man play called “Yasser” the plot is about a young Palestinian actor called “Yasser Mansour” the play is set in the dressing room of this young actor who is about to take the stage in “The merchant of Venice” playing ‘Shylock’ perhaps the best known Jew in literature. The character Shylock is of course an anti Semitic caricature; not uncommon for it’s time although not quite as brutal as that created by Dickens when he dreamed up Fagin in Oliver Twist, anti Semitism has been rife for hundreds of years and writers have exploited it to sell tickets. It still lurks under stones today, waiting to re-emerge; evil forces would like nothing better and they will use anything to re-create this evil. That is one of the reasons why we must always make the distinction between Jews and the state of Israel.
This was a “tour de force” by the actor William el Gardi, moving at breakneck speed between a host of characters; he played Israeli leaders such as Begin as well as Arab leaders like Hussein, Gadafy and Arafat with uncanny accents and mannerisms, describing how he and his friends as young kids used to mimic them as world events took place, Palestinians are among the most politically aware people in the world; well you would be wouldn’t you, at one point the young actor says “being born a Palestinian is a political act”
He relates the horror of the Middle East and the effects of the occupation on him and his family and tortures himself with doubt as to whether he can portray a Jew with any sympathy, can a Jew sympathise with a Palestinian? Would a Palestinian not be the perfect person to show sympathy with ‘Shylock’ ? It’s a very powerful provocative piece; and I would recommend that people should go see it, it is still touring and worth the effort. It won’t explain the conflicts to everyone’s satisfaction but; it might just help people to understand a little bit more, that’s worth the production alone, and the young actor who plays the part is mesmerising.