We used the last two punched holes in the subscription card for the Habima theater season to see the satirical cabaret show ‘Nifgaei Harada’ which was translated in the English page of the program to ‘Anxiety Struck’. Well, ‘Harada’ is a little more than just anxiety, it is closer to terror or shock which probably describes better the current mood and state of mind of the Israeli society. The authors of the texts in the show are B. Michael and Ephraim Sidon, and the director is Moti Kirschenbaum – all three were involved three and a half decades ago in the making of ‘Nikui Rosh’ (Head Cleaning, Brain-washing) – a cult satirical program which started a few years before Saturday Night Life and had shaken all the holy cows broke all established taboos of the Israeli society at a time of moral and political crisis similar to the one that faces today the Israeli society, establishing in the process the rules of freedom of expression that became standard – at least until now – in the Israeli culture and media.

How is ‘Anxiety Struck’ different from the many satirical programs we can see each week on the TV screens? The most important aspect is in my opinion the fact that there is no search or intention of neutrality. Free (or almost free) from the constraints of rating and the ‘objectivity’ rules of the broadcasting laws the authors of the texts do not perform any balancing act, they come from a clear and enrolled position, and what they perform on stage is politics at least at the same extent that it is art. By doing this they play as all satirical authors have always done with the borders of the ‘allowed’ in what concerns the political consensus (which they often cross) and with the limits of the good taste (which they seldom cross). Their saying is crisp, engaged, and leaves no doubt on what side they are and what situations they believe need to be fixed. If there are different opinions concerning the political aspects dealt with in the show one needs to go to a different show in a different hall to hear.

What about the artistic experience? Here my feelings are mixed. All the actors – Yael Leventhal, Dov Navon, Alon Neuman, Talli Oren, Tomer Sharon – are very good, they feel good in this genre and love doing it. The hall at Tzafta in Tel Aviv is however very challenging for anybody who sits beyond the very first rows, and we were not among the lucky ones last night. The sets are very uninspired, and so is the music, which is quite a surprise taking onto account that the author of the music score is Keren Peles, whose other works I have seen until now were always good and interesting. This I hope is just an unhappy event in the career of one of the best stage composers we have in Israel.

Satire in general is something the Israeli society needs badly in this moment. With the writings of Kishon and Levin in the back wind and with authors like Sidon and Michael, and even some of the text authors who write for TV shows there is hope that the tradition continues.  Can satire change the world, or help the world to change? We can hope so, says Moti Kirschenbaum in an interview in the show program, but then, we go to sleep and wake up in the morning, and realize that we are no more than the court clowns. Yes, but then, are there not the clown acts that are in many cases in history remembered as best representing their times?