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Ballad of the Burning Star, theatre review: Story of Israel told by satirical cabaret

Battersea Arts Centre, London

The story of Israel and its agonising contradictions has been told many times but this piece, by the acclaimed Theatre Ad Infinitum company, surely has the distinction of being the first to do so through the mode of spangly satirical cabaret.

Our host is Star, a flamboyant drag queen, played with a grotesque, intimidating charm by Nir Paldi, the author and director.

Paldi was originally going to present this semi-autobiographical material about a boy growing up in a Jewish settlement in the Occupied Territories and his increasing confusion over whether he's a victim or a persecutor as a one-man play but the outrageous mismatch here between form and content plunges you into the conflicted psyche of the nation with a raucous, taboo-breaking immediacy. 

“Play the 'Internal Conflict' music,” demands the mountingly dictatorial Star who seems unconscious of any discrepancy between her theme and her own bullying, racist treatment of the Star-lets, her militaristic international troupe of dancers. 

This licensed clown, who tells us during a roll-call of anti-semitism through the ages that now might be a good time to pop to the loo, gives the show an unsettling freedom of manoeuvre until the diva mask disintegrates. 

Political vaudeville with a vengeance.

To March 8; 020 7223 2223