Ballad of the Burning Star @ Pleasance Dome

Combining cabaret, drag, drama and politics, the award winning Theatre Ad Infinitum present a tale of Israeli conflict and one Jewish boy's struggle with the truths of his homeland

Review by Kayleigh Donaldson | 06 Aug 2013
  • Ballad of the Burning Star

The award winning Theatre Ad Infinitum, fresh from last year’s Fringe smash Translunar Paradise, return to the Pleasance Dome with something risky and truly unique. Performing underneath a Star of David mirror-ball, the flamboyant cross-dressing emcee Star, played by Nir Paldi, leads this demented cabaret act that seeks to tell the story of Israel, both the country and the protagonist of the tale. Flanked by a troupe of increasingly beleaguered deadly divas and a put upon musician, Star lays bare the conflicts and contradictions of modern day Israel in the most dramatic way possible.

Political drama is tough for any theatre group to pull off, especially when tackling the minefield that is the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. To do so with musical numbers, scantily clad women and a man in heels is particularly risky. Fortunately, Theatre Ad Infinitum give it their all and the end result is undoubtedly one of the must-see shows of the Fringe. High quality storytelling combines seamlessly with their seemingly odd medium of musical cabaret to tell a tough, often funny and simultaneously emotionally devastating story. Star and his international supporting divas manage to condense generations of the extremely complex history of Israel into manageable and easy to understand chunks that fit perfectly with the story and never feel forced or patronising.

Star, a fascinating and layered creation brought to dazzling life by Paldi, interjects periodically throughout the story to make notes and change details as his internal conflict becomes more obvious, much to the chagrin of his team. The emotional build up leads to an agonising climax that will stick with you for a long time: no matter how much the world tries to disguise the issue, and no matter how glamorous and entertaining Star tries to make the story, in the end nothing can conceal the ugly truth.

With shades of a far more visceral Cabaret, The Ballad of the Burning Star is a welcome and audacious reminder of how ground-breaking the theatre can really be. This is a play that doesn’t shy away from the controversy and complexities of an issue that many are still afraid to even approach. Truly haunting and admirable in its boldness, it may just end up being the show of the Fringe. 


Ballad of the Burning Star, Pleasance Dome, until 26 Aug (not 13, 20), 5.15pm, 80 minutes. £12/£10.50