Six oranges; a pocketful of sand; a wall. What might these mean to a person? I went with 25 middle school children to see Kish Kush and find out.
As we entered the theatre space–a square with seating on all four sides–we realized that once seated, because of the three-foot high plastic wall bisecting the space diagonally, we would only be able to see half of the performing space from any particular location. As a natural result, we could see the actions of only one of the two men seated on either side of those walls.
We had only our own point of view, stuck behind a wall.
Isolation. Slowly, slowly, the man becomes aware of something. A sound? From where? Over there? Oh, this is a wall? There’s something on the other side? How could it be? Tentative experiments testing the shadows projected on the wall from the other side. Finally the bold ripping of the wall to reveal: The Other.
Tall and short. Mutt and Jeff. Abbott and Costello. Vladimir and Estragon.
Circling. Who is this Me-Not-Me? Sound. Then the Tower of Babel. One man is speaking English, the other some mix of Hebrew-Arabic. They are attracted and repelled by each other. They see each other’s possessions which they envy and covet. However, they also know if they are to survive with one another in this wall-less universe they must find some way of communicating.
Kish Kush is the creation of two actors from Italy, Daniel Gol and Alessandro Nosetti who call themselves Teatrodistinto. They have been performing this piece all over the world in many languages for over six years. One actor always speaks the language of the locality where they are performing, while the other always speaks a gibberish mixture of Hebrew and Arabic.
The actors play with humor and specificity, enchanting a roomful of young students and myself. When the wall came down in the middle of the 60-minute piece, members of the audience were able to look across the actors’ space so that we could see each other, and so, ourselves. Delight, whoops of laughter, understanding. Two artists engage and the children engage.
It is Samuel Beckett for children, only this time Didi and Gogo, perhaps, have some hope. Godot does not come, but they have found each other. The students later talk of miscommunication, love, difference, oranges, language. I think of Marx, Gaza, imperialism, Plato, loneliness.
Spoiler: the characters do not hang themselves. They do not sit waiting. They pull out crayons. They draw together, filling the empty space with color and connection.