IT MAY be one of the world's oldest stories but the tale of Abraham and Isaac gets a very fresh updating in The Beloved.
Philosophical sheep and bloody revenge feature in Amir Zuabi's modern-day take on the Biblical story.
The play begins with Abraham and his son Isaac returning from the mountain top, where God had tested Abraham's faith by ordering him to sacrifice Isaac, only to give him a last-minute reprieve.
Both father and son are naturally traumatised by the experience, which soon tears their family apart, but the impact runs much deeper.
Isaac, a bright-eyed, innocent boy before his visit to the mountain top, becomes obsessed with death and unable to lead a normal life.
The Beloved pulls no punches, with several scenes not for the faint-hearted, but it is a very humane play, shot through with a wicked sense of humour.
In a nice touch, Isaac is followed by two sheep, both witnesses to the haunting mountain top scene, who muse on the changing nature of life.
Their witty interludes, with a touch of Samuel Beckett, provide sharp relief from the dark nature of the main story.
At one point, for example, they discuss how they were put on earth to protect man, only for their relationship to 'deteriorate' with the invention of knives.
Set in modern-day Palestine, the play, while not overtly political, is clearly influenced by the conflict.
It explores the nature of revenge but it is about much more, like man's relationship with nature and death, coping with loss and the responsibility of bringing up a son.
If there is one scene which perfectly captures Zuabi's ability to mix the profound and comic, it is when the sheep appear hung from a conveyor belt, apparently in an abattoir.
As they are slowly transported across the stage, they continue to discuss matter-of-factly how everything these days is automated or artificial, bemoaning the fact humans now prefer popping sleeping pills to counting sheep.
The Beloved is at the Bush Theatre until June 9.