The Other Side **1/2

The Other Side is a production of good ideas and honest intentions.  Based on real events, the play unfortunately gets lost under the burden of telling such a hard story.

Three actors use chairs, boxes, some props and four door frames to tell the true story about the creation of the ‘Hello Peace’ initiative, a programme that sees Israelis and Palestinians making phone calls to one another to share stories and insights about the current ‘troubles’ in the region.  Throughout the course of the play, we see families torn about, innocent people killed and humans left shattered by events they have no control over.

Director Gavin Robertson has created a wonderful looking production that uses clever and insightful staging techniques.  His cast float about the stage, constantly changing locations by making structures out of the barest of tools.  He is credited with creating the script, along with cast members Katharine Hurst, Kelly Taylor-Smith and Simon Nader, who together have devised the script through research and interviews.

However, it is upon looking at the script where the production’s flaws become apparent.  The company have obviously done their research, but they seem more intent on presenting their findings than telling a story.

Most of the narrative is told via a jigsaw-like structure, with the majority of the play focused on filling in gaps.  We know most of the ‘what’ fairly quickly, but it’s the ‘why’ and the ‘how’ that takes up the majority of the production.  This disjointed structure does not allow much emotional investment.  By knowing what happens to key characters, tension is all but removed and scenes that should be rich in drama feel flat.

Much of the dialogue is also quite wooden, which doesn’t help.  The ending does tie most things together and proves to be a decent emotional pay-off (thought the final moment is contrived), but even there the dialogue is easily the weakest component.

The Other Side is a well-intentioned production that has a lot to say about a rather difficult subject.  It has its heart in the right place and contains some rather excellent staging concepts, even though its plot is a bit thin and dialogue a bit shoddy.

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

Playing at Gilded Balloon from 14.45-15.45 until August 31.

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