Wael Zuaiter: Unknown.

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By: Eoin Conway

Rome, 1972, and respected Palestinian intellectual and translator Wael Zuaiter is making his way to his fiancée’s apartment.

As he waits for the lift to bring him upstairs, 13 shots are fired.

12 pierce his body. The 13th punctures the spine of a book he was translating, One Thousand and One Nights. To this day his work remains unfinished.

In Wail Zuaiter: Unknown, documentary radio producer Jesse Cox recounts the compelling events leading up to Zuaiter’s death. The story told to Cox by his great aunt, Australian artist, Janet Venn-Brown who was engaged to Zuaiter.

Using excerpts from interviews with his great aunt, Cox guides the audience through the relationship between Venn-Brown and the elusive Zuaiter, exploring how the Israeli-Palestinian conflict affected Zuaiter and ultimately lead to his assassination in his adopted city of Rome.

The story is accompanied by mesmerising illustrations and animations from Aldous Massie and Matt Huynh, which captivate the audience- transporting them from location to location, portraying the key aspects of the story in a deceptively simple way.

It’s a simple set, with Cox sitting at a writing desk in front of a screen displaying images beamed by an overhead projector. Apart form this the show relies purely on the audio and simple projections to get the message across.

Cox focuses on the spoken word through his own narration and recordings of interviews with his great aunt, Palestinian artist Emily Jacir, Israeli journalist Aaron Klein and Zuaiter’s siblings.

This is the first time Cox has performed in front of a theatre audience, compelled by the need to tell Zuaiter’s story. His performance is relaxed and conversational, drawing the audience into his tale of love, war and mystery.

Despite Cox’s extensive research, the full story of Wael Zuaiter remains unknown as many of the files that contain the full story of his death are classified. To this day, his sudden and tragic end still impacts those who knew him and the family he left behind.

Wael Zuaiter: Unknown was showing at St Kilda’s Theatre Works during May. Check out their upcoming plays at www.theatreworks.org.au.

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