Review: The Beloved

Written for Time Out

After several acclaimed political productions, Palestinian theatre company ShiberHur is back in London with a domestic retelling of the story of Abraham and Isaac. It is a disappointing return.

In the past, writer and director Amir Nizar Zuabi’s surreal lyricism has illuminated social injustice. Now, ‘The Beloved’s personal focus feels like navel-gazing, while its New Age spiritualism is frankly befuddling.

Asked by God to sacrifice his son, Abraham takes Isaac to the top of a mountain and binds him, only to be stopped at the last moment by his maker, having proved his loyalty. The story is found in both Judaism and Islam, which could have offered an opportunity to examine the Palestinian/Israeli conflict or at least explore a shared heritage from different contemporary viewpoints. But Zuabi has stripped the tale of its original religious or social meaning and therefore much of its power.

At points his imagery is beautiful, but poetry alone fails to impart any solid meaning to what becomes simply a thin family melodrama, in which God is replaced by a chorus of talking sheep.

Runs until Saturday 9 June.