ACM TAHA Amer HlehelWritten and performed by Amer Hlehel, TAHA is a beautiful work of theatre. Against the black of the stage floor lies a mat, gently lit. There’s a small bench on one of its corners, but it’s hardly used.

Occasionally, Amer will carry a soft leather briefcase, but mostly he’s talking out and up to the audience. It’s a gentle arrangement, but one that shows its strength as the piece progresses.

When Amer speaks of early years in Palestine, before the creation of Israel in the late 1940s, his world is the lit floor. Then, when he and his family suddenly find themselves refugees, he never steps back on the mat, only walking on the black floor. A simple conceit, but a rich one – the design of TAHA is delicately crafted and balanced.

For a story of a part of the world whose politics are such a contentious issue, TAHA featured little outrage, but plenty of passion. Amer is an extremely charismatic storyteller, with a voice seemingly tuned to connect with his audience. His poetry and this story of a family displaced speak to a different fire.

Instead of bitterness, Amer revels in the power of language and the power of art to transform the artist. Near the end, he introduces the word, “Revenge,” yet his definition and exploration of it take a surprising path.

Don Paterson famously defined a poem as, “a small machine for remembering itself.” Amer’s poetry and storytelling reaches further, remembering more that itself or its author. It remembers a lost village, the love of family, heartache, and joy. TAHA only runs for a short season and shouldn’t be missed!

State Theatre – Arts Centre Melbourne, 100 St. Kilda Road, Melbourne
Performance: Tuesday 10 July 2018
Season continues to 14 July 2018
Information and Bookings: www.artscentremelbourne.com.au

Image: Amer Hlehel in TAHA (supplied)

Review: David Collins