Games In The Backyard
By Edna Mazia
The Cameri Theatre
Tel Aviv, Israel
In the summer of 1988, a horrifying rape that was perpetrated in Kibbutz Shomrat in the north of Israel shook the entire country. Seven boys aged seventeen repeatedly raped a fourteen-year-old girl, abusing her both physically and mentally.
This shocking incident served as the inspiration for one of the best known and most successful Israeli plays ever written; a play that does only deal with the rape itself, but with a subject that has preoccupied humanity since the dawn of its existence: relations between the sexes.
Directed by: Noam Shmuel
Design: Avital Lahat
Music: Oran Eldor
Lighting: Yechiel Orgal
Electronic Tracks: Eyall Weiss
Video: Noam Shmuel
AD: Tal Schif
Rape Is Rape Is Rape
Mazya has written a most effective play. Director Noam Shmuel has beautifully created the atmosphere of the dangerous teenage game with deliberate use of video clips conveying information that goes beyond what is happening onstage, either scenes of the accused as innocent children or their sentencing to one to three years in jail.
The four young actors successfully create the atmosphere of the violent male group, they work excellently as a team, and particularly notable is Yiftach Ophir with the natural stage leadership of someone who knows how to use force and avoid responsibility. But all this is dwarfed by Hani Firtsenberg in the leading role; she is blessed with an appearance giving the impression that she was created for the role of a girl-woman, and with a stage personality that blends vulnerability, flirtatiousness and danger, stemming from harsh emotional distress. When she asks, in the demanding role, whether the fact that she is “a bad girl” means that she deserves to be raped, the audience is left helpless.
Michael Handelzalts, Ha’aretz, 16.01.2008
A Harsh and Chilling Experience
Edna Mazya’s play has already been successfully produced in Israel in the 1990s. It transpires that today it is still alive and kicking both as a moving play and also as a chilling human document, which regrettably is still terribly relevant. Young director Noam Shmuel has staged a refreshing, young, and dynamic production. He particularly succeeds in creating the amazing atmosphere of the games played by the four youths and the raped girl, games ranging between youthful innocence and sexual tension that can be felt in the air. The performance reaches its climax in the rape scene that is organized around the swaying of the swing, loud music and excellent play of the lighting designed by Yehiel Orgal. But this is Hani Firstenberg’s show. She possesses not only the wonderful presence of a young girl, but her performance moves and thrills in its power, in the broad spectrum between a young girl’s innocence and dangerous games. The young actors who play the boys form a dynamic and effervescent group.
Elyakim Yaron, Kol Yisrael, 16.01.2008
Back to the Playground – A Young, Dynamic Production
Once [The Cameri Theatre] decided to revive this play, then this young and dynamic production by director Noam Shmuel is definitely a good way of doing so. Shmuel brings to the stage an energetic style based on video clips (edited by him) and beat music (written by Oran Eldor), and mainly on the sharp and intense performance of a young, unified cast. The actors shift convincingly between the roles of the youngsters playing forbidden games in the playground (set design by Avital Lahat) and those of the lawyers who play far more “respectable”, but no less lethal games in the courtroom. At center stage stands the swing, a symbol of the childish innocence that pervades the story.
Above all this play belongs to the group of youngsters – Erez Kahana, Moran Kal, Lior Rochman, Yiftach Ophir and Hani Firstenberg. Of the boys, worthy of special mention is Ophir who plays Assaf, the group’s charismatic leader, so chillingly. Firstenberg is wonderful in her transitions between the frightened girl and the passionate prosecutor who courageously faces the defense’s battery of sexist attorneys.
Shai Bar-Ya’akov, Yedioth Ahronoth, 16.01.2008