"Poet’s personal and professional self-destruction"
by Rachel Knightley for remotegoat on 06/03/18

This world premiere follows a rehearsed reading in Vibrant, the Finborough Theatre’s annual new writing festival. Bev is a poet and academic whose plaudits slid from “a Sylvia Plath for the Morrissey generation” to “hasn’t written anything important this century”. Her alcohol consumption and temper combine with grief for the father whose care home she rarely visited to create a perfect storm: Bev publishes a poem comparing an Israeli soldier to a Nazi guard. Her refusal to apologise for the harm and offence she caused is because she won’t recognise them. This is mirrored in her personal life as she attacks and alienates rather than accept help from the journalist who wanted to give her a fair hearing and her long-suffering, devoted Personal Assistant, Tamsin.

Geraldine Somerville gives a deep and instant reality to Bev’s self-torture in a stunningly articulate pre-sequence, wandering between scattered books, towards and away from her empty office’s secret booze stashes. Sally Blower’s deceptively simple set makes a virtue of the bright orange in-the-round stage inherited from the play this runs in rep with, to form a world that could have been made around Bev. When Tamsin (Ulrika Krishnamurti) arrives in the office, she brings with her a Facebook-centric world the audience recognizes and Bev refuses to see. Krishnamurti is delightful as the affectionate and frustrated Tamsin but the relationship between poet and PA doesn’t quite reach the familiarity, love and claustrophobia of six years together. Another highlight was Bev’s interplay with Michael (Nathaniel Wade), the technician at her reading, cheerfully doing his best in the face of artistic and life catastrophes.

Checkpoint Chana “examines the point where pro-Palestinian criticism of the government of Israel and anti-Semitism blur” but takes for granted a level of familiarity with each. Any play on any subject needs to bring fundamental history and terminology across. Otherwise (as several of us witnessed in the Finborough bar after the performance), if an audience member did not understand why Bev’s comparison was toxic, they left still not understanding. David, the kind and intelligent young journalist who represents Bev’s best hope to save herself (played with gentle humour by Matt Mella) would have convinced more deeply of his reason to keep the interview and conversation going had he presented her with the opportunity to differentiate state from government, government from people, religion from race, race from country, and criticism of a government from hatred of a people. This missed opportunity enables similar oversimplifications to those of which Bev is guilty, and shies away from defining the subjects it claims.

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