Thursday, 15 October 2009

The Lemon Tree of Kensington

Several months ago, I met with award-winning playwright Ben Ellis as he was writing his latest script for The Lemon Tree of Kensington, a play comissioned as part of the Kensington & Chelsea arts festival "Across The Street, Around The World". In 2007 Ben wrote Blindingly obvious facts about the death of Rachel Corrie. Ben wanted to meet with Arabs living in Britain to interview them about their experiences as research for his play.

I went to see the play on Wednesday of last week, October 7th, a strange experience to see some of the stories we talked about acted out on stage. The Lemon Tree of Kensington. It was a also an exercise in egotism as three others friends who had also been interviewed by Ben tried to unpack the script to see which of our stories and characteristics made it into the play. After the performance, we compared stories.

I saw the main narrative of my talk with Ben in the story of Nadia (was her name Nadia?) - her father wanted her to go into finance, she wanted to be an international news correspondent. Later in the play, another story from my life. A shopkeeper recalls a story from my own life, a story I had told Ben weeks before, a sad story of guns, Libyan politicians and innocently buying a newspaper that had happened to my father when he was on holiday with my mother in Italy. I was probably only a year or two old at the time, so I remember none of it. All I remember is my mother retelling the story to me.

Strange to see these events dramatised. Stories that are central to my own life, and shape the way I approach everything I do now, acted out on a stage for the audience.