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Yonatan Levy

Nephilim | The General and the Sea | Saddam Hussein - A Mystery Play

Nephilim

“This is an extraordinary theatre, and its power derives not only from the complexity and the preciseness of the musical and visual work, but also from the creative, insane, imaginative writing, and mostly from the three performers who play the main characters, neither of which is an actor in the ordinary sense of the word.”

Michael Handelzalts, Haaretz (May 27, 2016)

  • Directed by Yonatan Levy
  • Music by Noam Enbar
  • Written by Yonatan Levy and Boaz Lavie
  • Performers | Smadar YaaronMenashe NoyNoam Semel, Nir Shauloff 
  • Musicians | Noam Enbar, Adam Scheflan, Ariel Armoni
  • Movement | Israel Sassover
  • Producer and asst. Director | Adi Kahana
  • Video | Yoav Brill
  • Costumes | Keren Nehushtan
  • Lighting | Omer Sheizaf
  • Production | HaZira Performance Art Arena

“…An extraordinary and stimulating experience – funny, strange and thought-provoking.”

Shai Bar Yaacov, Yedioth Ahronoth (May 2016)

Director Yonatan Levy continues his theatrical journey into Israeli reality’s unconscious layers. Nephilim is a trilogy about three Israelis who look at the State of Israel from the outside, beginning with prime-minister Menachem Begin, continuing with a fictitious judoka and finishing with the Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli.

Nephilim begins in the 1980 visit of then-prime minister Begin (played by Cameri Theatre director Noam Semel) to Beaufort Fortress in Lebanon.  The piece grapples with the bankruptcy of the political morality and ethos, questioning the engagement in a bloody battle for symbolic reasons.  Starring Menashe Noy and Nir Shauloff, the second act features an Israeli judoka who, about to compete for a gold medal in the 1990 Asian championships in Turkmenistan, learns that Israel was destroyed by a nuclear bomb. The third act moves the action into the first decade of the 21st century, centering on Israeli supermodel Bar Refaeli (played by Smadar Yaaron), whose fashionably bespectacled gaze – through the Carolina Lemke sunglasses – follows departing and arriving passengers at Ben-Gurion Airport.

The trilogy follows underground currents in the unconscious of Israeli identity, from Menachem Begin’s depression to obsessive coverage of achievement in sports to the complete takeover of public space by Refaeli’s image.

The unique and magnetic theatrical language coined by Yonatan Levy easily avoids facile definitions. It is ritualistic, poetic and profound, while at the same time charming and captivating. Levy’s collaboration with Noam Enbar has resulted in a musical-ritual production rich in images and a hymn to the surrealism of the local reality which, like Levy’s other works, stretches the limits of contemporary Israeli theatre.

 

“…The show arouses a multitude of indefinite feelings. It’s admirable, it’s frustrating, it’s funny, it’s cruel, it’s whimsical and it’s magical. What’s certain is that it doesn’t cease to intrigue, challenge and provoke thought. In this respect – it is a definite triumph.”

Marat Parkhomovsky, Mouse (May 2016)

The General and the Sea

A Musical-Theatre piece for an actor and a chorus

The General and the Sea is an epic rendering of one of the greatest Israeli myths ever: The last minutes of General Raphael Eitan (“Raful”), a legendary soldier known for his superhuman courage at the battlefield, who went to the Ashdod Port wave breaker on a stormy day, and was swept to sea – without knowing how to swim.

Raful was a laconic man who gave away little emotion. Yet after his death his widow revealed that he used to cry out every night, in his dreams, frequently meeting dozens of his dead soldiers and the two sons he lost.

Yet The General and the Sea is not only an Israeli myth deconstructed ironically, in a post-nationalistic view, but the story of Man, facing Life and Death, conquering and surrendering; a clash between man and his destiny, between male and female, between the volume of pain and the lack of expression; a war story between a man and himself.

The General and the Sea is composed by Noam Enbar (“Habiluyim”). The General Raful is portrayed by Israeli TV star Menashe Noy and the sea by a chorus.

CREDITS

  • Written and Directed by | Yonatan Levy
  • Music by | Noam Enbar
  • Co-creators | Amir Farjoun, Nir Shauloff
  • Raful | Menashe Noy
  • Chorus | Michal Oppenheim, Naama Altman, Avshalom Ariel, Tomer Damsky, Ari Teperberg, Ilil Lev Kenaan, Tamar Linder, Neta Nadav, Ruth Sgan-Cohen, Noam Enbar, Yair Polishook, Amir Farjoun, Nir Shauloff
  • Lighting | Omer Sheizaf
  • Costumes | Yonatan Levy, Keren Nechoshtan
  • Vocal Coaching | Michal Oppenheim
  • Costumes Graphics | Naama Yuriya; Grandmother Mask | Sagie Azoulay; Sis Priests Hats | Tamar Hirschfeld
  • Graphic Design | Ha’Schuna; Image | Ruth Gwily
  • Production Manager | Nir Shauloff
  • Assistant Director | Roni Levanon
  • Rehearsal Space | CCA – The Center for Contemporary Art

“One of the most powerful performances to be seen on Israeli stage these days… A rare artistic  achievement.” 

Yediot Acharonot (November 2014)

  • photo: Different View
    photo: Different View
  • photo: Different View
    photo: Different View
  • photo: Different View
    photo: Different View
  • photo: Different View
    photo: Different View
  • photo: Different View
    photo: Different View
  • photo: Different View
    photo: Different View

“A lyrical theatre piece that penetrates the shell-shocked soul of the legendary mythical warrior – until it breaks.” 

Globes (November 2014)

Saddam Hussein - A Mystery Play

  • Saddam Hussein: A Mystery Play, HaZira Art Performance Arena (2011), photo: Eyal Lanedsman
    Saddam Hussein: A Mystery Play, HaZira Art Performance Arena (2011), photo: Eyal Lanedsman
  • Saddam Hussein: A Mystery Play, HaZira Art Arena (2011), photo: Eyal Lanedsman
    Saddam Hussein: A Mystery Play, HaZira Art Arena (2011), photo: Eyal Lanedsman
  • photo: Eyal Landesman
    photo: Eyal Landesman
  • photo: Eyal Landesman
    photo: Eyal Landesman
  • photo: Eyal Landesman
    photo: Eyal Landesman
  • photo: Eyal Landesman
    photo: Eyal Landesman

“A dark ceremonial performance which holds oil, the modern god, as its core. It is hard to determine whether Levy wishes us to take this drama seriously and recognize Saddam as a postmodern tragic archetype, or see him as an empty reproduced figure, and the whole show as humoristic anti-theatre. This is undoubtedly one of the most original and funny shows I saw, also thanks to the anarchistic energies rising from the superb performance of Levy and his collaborators.”

Shai Bar-Yaakov, Yedioth Ahronoth

Saddam Hussein is a production of HaZira – Performance Art Arena. It premiered at the 2011 Acco Fringe Festival, where it was awarded three prizes including Best Play, and Best Original Music. According to the judges’ committee, “The performance is based on a poetic, political, sharp, and entertaining play. Saddam Hussein presents a theatrical language that is a harmonious variety of poetic styles, scathing prose, live music and movement. Alongside the troupe’s unified performance, the play allows the actors room for individual expression.”

In a lyric and ceremonial prose, Saddam Hussein invites the audience to an oily mystery tour. The  theatrical journey into the Iraqi Heart of Darkness explores an invented mythology consisting of the hidden dynamics between East and West. Enclosed in his bunker with three of his doubles, quadrantly reflected, the Iraqi tyrant experiences inner visions, culminating in a final initiation rite which strikes the esoteric meaning of Oil. The actors, all mustached, in red Sufi skirts and khaki shirts, instantly change roles from Iraqis to Americans and back. In an ambiguous melange of metaphysical poetry and pretentious nonsense, accompanied by Gurdjieff-inspired sacred dances, the performance creates a vivid and masculine depiction of Man’s troubled relations to his time, place, history and mainly – his Self.

In my heart – a cloth is a-curling.

Inside it – a diamond of fire.

“The Carbon, the Carbon” it whispers-

“Gold is dear, but Carbon is higher.”

“Yonatan Levy is a language and rhetoric genius, a high priest of  Dada and irony… He steps out of the mainstream… and the outcome is tremendously effective…”

Christian Gampert, www.deutschlandfunk.de
(9 June 2014)

credits

  • Written and directed by | Yonatan Levy
  • Performers and co-creators
    Amir Farjoun, Nir Shauloff, Saar Székely, Yonatan Levy
  • Production | Hazira Performance Art Arena
  • Music | Yiftah Kadan, Harel Gal
  • Costume design | Ruth Gwily
  • Lighting | Shahar Marom
  • Sacred dances | Nataly Turgeman

Past tours:

  • Theater der Welt | Mannheim, Germany, June 2014
  • Divadlo Festival | Pilsen, Czech Republic, September 2014
  • F.I.N.D Festival, Schaubuehne | Berlin, April 18-19, 2015

“An impressive work – thanks to the text, written as libretto and performed as poetry, thanks to the choreography, which has a masculine stiffness, both pompous and ridiculous, thanks to the restrained style of performance and finally – thanks to original music by Yiftah Kadan and Harel Gal, which bestows  the event a dreamlike, legendary feel.”

Merav Yudilovitch, Ynet

BIO

Born in 1974 in Montreal, Canada, Yonatan Levy graduated from the MA studies at the Department of Theatre Arts, Faculty of the Arts, Tel-Aviv University (2005). Yonatan’s artistic work unfolds over several practices: he is a playwright, a director, an actor, a poet and a publicist. Along that, he is also an educator inspired and led by anthroposophist worldview and philosophy. Yonatan’s poetic and dramatic texts are characterized by an extraordinary verbal talent and a unique style of language and syntax – inspired by mythic and ritual elements – which attempts to create magic effect on its addressees. Yonatan’s stage work includes experimental fringe theater productions and co-creating performance and stage pieces with his adolescent pupils. Along that, Yonatan is a co-artist of the interdisciplinary art group “Cordoba” (installation, video, painting, poetry and more). Among his works are “The General and the Sea” (2014); “Saddam Hussein – A Mystery play” – awarded Best Play at the Acco Theatre Festival (2011); Solo Spoken-Word performance “The Israeli Phoenix: Messianic Poetry Epic” (2009); “Mr. Universe” (2007); “Manu, king of Atlantis – awarded Promising Artist and later on awarded Best Play and Best Interdisciplinary Work by Israeli Fringe Association (“Golden Porcupine” competition) (2004). Yonatan has also created the Pedagogical Trilogy premiered in the Jerusalem Season of Culture in the years 2012-2013, including: “Principal Clarification”, “Mayheim in Ghetto” and “Alongside the Lesson”. Among other works of Yonatan are the initiative “Good Energies”, a verbatim staging of Israeli parliament economics committee protocol (2011), and “Malkitaus and the Bulldozer” at the Harduf’s Anthroposophist High school (2009).

“The performers created a wild and total performing aesthetics, borrowing codes from the sources of images of high and low, eastern and western culture, establishing new aesthetic combinations. This creative and innovative spirit had brought up this piece, which challenges the conventional components of the concept of ‘Theatre’”

Jury of “Golden Porcupine Competition, Israeli Fringe Association on “Manu, King of Atlantis” (April 2005)

“In times when artistic scales are blurry and the stage tolerates everything on behalf of ‘doing everything’, it’s refreshing to encounter young artists who know exactly what they are doing, referring to what had come before them and to what currently surrounds them, take pleasure in doing so, both fooling around and touching the definite emotion which resides in us all: the fear of death”

Michael Hendelzalz, Ha’aretz on “Manu, King of Atlantis” (2004)

“There are only rare pieces which endow their spectators a life, a mind and a world changing experience; I’ve seen three of those: -two of them abroad, quite a long time ago – First was a Robert Wilson’s piece, the second was a film by Godard and the third is – Manu, King of Atlantis”

Proffesor Yehuda Moraly, Eretz Aheret (December 2004) on “Manu, King of Atlantis”

“My encounter with Yonatan Levy’s poetry had been an extremely moving and powerful experience. Levy’s literary work exceeds the dimensions of the moment from which it springs from, indicating the horizons of the upcoming moment. His poetry, which is neither lyric nor descriptive, traces the sources of poetic speech and renews its lost flavors. Yonatan Levy’s work is powerfully and uniquely evoking the magic power of the word, preparing itself actively towards the universe – in order to change something within it, in order to act within it. (…) Levy’s Hebrew strikes our ears with the rhythms of a reinforcing invocation-spell, rolling in dances of ancient ritual and ceremony. (…) In his treatise On the Sublime, Longinus acknowledged the capacity of poetry to reestablish the power of vow. In terms of this principal and acute aspect, Yonatan Levy’s poetry is Sublime”

Oded Wolkstein, editorial borad of Mitaam on ‘Malkitaus and the Bulldozer”