Soldiers of Tomorrow tells the story of Itai Erdal’s conflicted relationship with Israel, specifically his time as a soldier and the prospect of his nephew’s future as a soldier of tomorrow. It’s a charged topic and Erdal does a commendable job of outlining the plethora of opposing opinions and emotions at odds with one another. As he explains: Israel was once Palestine (ruled by the British), but before that it was part of the Ottoman Empire, before that it was Byzantine, before that it was Roman, before that it was Israel, and before that it was part of Egypt. Who gets to claim this part of the world as their own? Whoever has the biggest military by the looks of it.
It feels like only half the story is being told
Even the most potted of history lessons can become dense and sadly Soldiers of Tomorrow falls victim to this trap. It often feels as though it needs some extra breathing room that the Fringe simply doesn’t allow. Erdal uses an array of toy soldiers to stand in for his army buddies, which occasionally helps bring his stories to life but unfortunately Erdal’s is a more talented storyteller than puppeteer – some of the toy soldiers are simply too small to properly capture the imagination. Emad Armoush similarly injects the piece with a beautiful musical accompaniment but his role and presence in the show feels like a missed opportunity. He hints at his reasons for leaving Syria but never speaks again. Dialogue between an Israeli and an Arab doesn’t seem to be an option or even a possibility. The focus is firmly on Erdal’s guilt and turmoil, struggling to reconcile the reality of antisemitism and the subsequent belief that historical suffering made Israel “the most moral army” with the reality of having to watch Palestinian children die. His belief that leftists need to be in the army so the right-wing don’t commit atrocities is firmly shattered and it more than hits home.
Erdal does a good job of explaining his perspetive but it feels like only half the story is being told. Dialogue may not happen in the show itself but hopefully it will spark one amongst the audience.