(Alfred Hickling’s article appeared in the Guardian, 11/13.)

The Fever Chart

Theatre Royal, York

Sometimes it is the quietest responses to humanitarian disaster that make the loudest impact. The war in Iraq inspired Canadian dramatist Judith Thompson's superb trio of monologues, Palace of the End. Now, Pilot Theatre presents the British premiere of American playwright Naomi Wallace's triptych of short plays about the Middle East.

Spanning the period from the first Gulf war to the present day, Wallace examines the conflict through three elliptical encounters at a zoo in a West Bank border town, in the waiting room of a clinic in Jerusalem, and at a pigeon fancier's convention in Baghdad. The offbeat settings enable Wallace to shift the emphasis from the vagaries of international politics to the impact it has on everyday lives. Whereas the living conditions of the West Bank are almost impossible to imagine, Wallace creates an empathetic image of a half-demolished zoo, where a rare breed of turtle has been wiped out beneath the treads of Israeli tanks. Similarly, she finds a means of conveying the impact of international sanctions on Iraq in a monologue lamenting the loss of prize pigeons, shot down for food. The conceits become a little strained at times: there's a degree of enmity within these encounters that draws attention to their inevitable contrivance. But the acting is exemplary, particularly from Lisa Came as an Israeli nurse faced with an awkward Palestinian patient (Raad Rawi). Daniel Rabin also impresses as an eloquent idealist in his pigeon loft.

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