Hanane Hajj Ali is a Lebanese performer with French citizenship who jogs daily to prevent osteoporosis, depression and obesity. In this show, as she navigates the streets of Beirut and traces familiar paths, Hajj Ali uses Greek myths and modern day examples to explain the roles of actor, mother, wife, refugee and citizen. Performed in Arabic with English subtitles,
A moving and visceral piece of theatre.
Even before the official start to the performance, the show began to eloquently explore hard hitting themes. Hajj Ali, while doing a ‘warm up’ before her jog, gave a sheet of paper to an audience member to read out. With this, the company apologised for any technical issues in the show; they had had to reprogram the show with only four hours’ notice as the visa of their technical manager was denied. This allowed the audience to understand the struggles faced by the company in performing this piece of theatre. Censorship laws in the Middle East makes it difficult for Jogging to be performed in these countries, and even coming to the UK posed difficulties for the ensemble. The question of freedom of movement is immediately brought to our attention, and is physicalised in the act of running throughout this performance. One of the few flaws in this performance was that the physical actions could do with being sharper and more poised.
In this one woman show, Hajj Ali successfully conveys many roles and manages to link the real and the mythical together. She speaks of the ancient Greek tragedies, paying particular attention to Medea and stating that Medea is the great role that is dreamed of by all actors. Though I appreciate the fact that, in the script, no prior knowledge of the Greeks is necessary for the audience to understand what is happening, the tale is told in too much depth, distracting us from the initial storyline.
On explaining why the role of Medea is one to which she relates as a parent, Hajj Ali furthers her argument by telling the stories of two real women who went through similar strife in today’s world. Her skill and talent in playing these roles is immediately apparent, as there is no confusing the people, the stories or how they are linked. In her honest portrayal of these accounts, we see how these people and their lives have helped her to understand who she is.
Jogging, as a play, is rife with metaphors, and we are left wondering whether Hajj Ali is running towards her future or running away from her past on her daily jogs. Either way, we are given a concise understanding of her role in the world, as both a theatre maker and a person in the global community. In asking difficult questions and being honest about the difficulty of answering them, this a moving and visceral piece of theatre.