Review: Beirut Adrenaline (Théâtre Excentrique)

excentriqueVenue: Belvoir St Theatre (Surry Hills NSW), Jul 27 – Aug 14, 2016
Playwrights: Jalie Barcilon, Hala Ghosn
Director: Anna Jahjah
Cast: Danielle Dona, Neveen Hanna, Mansoor Noor, Eli Saad, Sana’a Shaik, Delphine Vuagnoux
Image by Emma Lois

Theatre review
The play is set wartime, approximately thirty years ago in Beirut. We do not see politicians or armies, only civilians who attempt to live every day with as much normalcy as they can muster. Amidst constant worry and foreboding, every step they take becomes a heavy one, with repercussions that no one can be certain of. Their experience may now be considered a chapter of the past, but war is ever-present, and its unchanging complexion means that every story of survival, or otherwise, serves to help us reflect on the many dark events of our day.

The stress and anxiety from that state of emergency is portrayed well in Beirut Adrenaline, even though time and space is, in the play, often confused. Like the experience of trauma, the production opens with a sense of disoriented bewilderment, and we are forced into an inconvenient struggle to figure out each of its story’s where, when and who. It takes considerable time before we are able to form enough narrative coherence, but it is a worthwhile investment that ultimately does take us to a satisfying conclusion.

Neveen Hanna and Eli Saad play the bigger parts in the show, and are both affecting. We warm up to them slowly, but their efforts are fundamentally passionate, with an impressive sincerity especially moving at the climactic end. Mansoor Noor’s animated approach for his teenage character is delightful, and the confident demeanour he brings to the stage is refreshing and quite critical in adding a quality of exhilaration to its often sombre tone.

Although Beirut Adrenaline is rough around the edges, unable to provide a polished telling of its pessimistic tale, it does leave us with a truthful and evocative essence of those terrifying experiences. It is in our nature to want easy answers and impeccable solutions, but war is a beast that will forever resist our every grasp and restraint. The notion of world peace exists only in the phantasmagoric land of fairy tales and beauty queens. To find any progress, our existences must include the acknowledgement of suffering, especially of those we call our enemies.