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Returning to Haifa - production images released

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

PRODUCTION images have been released from Returning to Haifa, which runs at the Finborough Theatre until March 24, 2018. To view them, click here.

Previously Posted: The world premiere of the first English-language adaptation of the classic novella by Ghassan Kanafani, Returning to Haifa, adapted for the stage by Naomi Wallace and Ismail Khalidi, runs at the Finborough Theatre for a four week limited season – from Tuesday, February 27 to Saturday, March 24, 2018.

You haven’t asked, but yes, you both may stay in our house for the time being. And use our things. I figure it’ll take a war to settle it all.

Returning to Haifa is the compelling story of two families – one Palestinian, one Israeli – forced by history into an intimacy they didn’t choose.

In 1948, Palestinian couple Said and Safiyya fled their home during the Nakba. Now, in the aftermath of the 1967 Six Day War, the borders are open for the first time in twenty years, and the couple dare to return back to their home in Haifa.

They are prepared – of course – to find someone else living where they once did. Yet nothing could prepare Said and Safyya for the encounter they both desire and dread: the son they had to leave behind, and what he has now become…

Coinciding with the 70th anniversaries of both the Nakba or “catastrophe” – the mass dispossession of the Palestinians in 1948 – and the foundation of the State of Israel, Returning to Haifa is a unique, deeply moving play of suspense and heartbreak, where humanity and vision combine with a frontline immediacy.

This adaptation was originally commissioned by New York’s Public Theater who had committed to programming the play, but subsequently abandoned the production after political pressure from the board. It now receives its long-overdue world premiere at the Finborough Theatre, directed by Caitlin McLeod whose critically acclaimed production of Naomi Wallace’s And I And Silence sold out at the Finborough Theatre and transferred Off Broadway.

The cast includes Myriam Acharki (as Safiyya), Leila Ayad (Young Safiyya), Ammar Haj Ahmad (Said), Ethan Kai (Young Said) and Marlene Sidaway (Miriam).

Writer Ghassan Kanafani (1936-1972) is widely regarded as one of Palestine’s greatest novelists, writing some of the most admired stories in modern Arabic literature. He was also an intellectual and political activist. His novellas and short stories, now translated into dozens of languages, are considered by many today as having been ahead of their time, both in form and content. Kanafani wrote the novella Returning to Haifa in 1969, a testament not only to Kanafani’s principled commitment to the politics of liberation, but also his deep empathy for the ‘other’ as well as his modern approach to storytelling.

Ghassan Kanafani was assassinated by a car bomb in Beirut in 1972 at the age of 36. Kanafani’s obituary in Lebanon’s The Daily Star wrote that: “He was a commando who never fired a gun, whose weapon was a ball-point pen, and his arena the newspaper pages.”

Presented by Lynne McConway Productions in association with Neil McPherson for the Finborough Theatre, Returning to Haifa has set and costume design by Rosie Elnile, lighting by Joshua Gadsby and sound by David Gregory.

Also at the Finborough Theatre: the first London production since 1890 of Cyril’s Success by playwright and local resident Henry J. Byron (February 4 to February 20) and the world premiere of Checkpoint Chana by Jeff Page (March 4 to March 20, 2018).