Globe director's Dromgoole's 1967 Israel Habima links

By Jennifer Lipman, May 24, 2012

Habima's performance of The Merchant of Venice will not be the Globe's artistic director's first brush with Shakespeare with an Israeli spin.

As a toddler, Dominic Dromgoole joined his director father in Israel where he was working on Habima's production of Othello.

Patrick Dromgoole, who also took the Joe Orton comedy Entertaining Mr Sloane to Israel, worked in Israel for three consecutive summers and was awarded a medal by Habima: "a small star of Israel with a cross in the centre".

His third visit was in June 1967 and the run coincided with the Six-Day War. Dominic, then aged three, was airlifted out of Israel to Cyprus along with his mother and siblings as fighting broke out; they were taken to safety after British Embassy staff spotted his brother's "very English, very Victorian teddy bear".

In his memoir Will & Me, Mr Dromgoole recalled his arrival in Israel: "The sound of a thousand voices belting out the Israel national anthem as our ship pulled into Haifa" and "the fierce tears and greedy clutching when people re-met".

Mr Dromgoole said that the Habima actors he met "treated Shakespeare with the same devotional enthusiasm" as his parents did. "Israel in 1967 had the innocent enthusiasm for the classics of a company that was improvising its own destiny…"

He later discovered that his father, who was having an affair with the Habima actress playing Desdemona, stopped rehearsals and instead began entertaining the troops.

"Soldiers weary from the whizz flash bang of modern warfare would return from a battlefield of tanks and artillery to find my father, standing on the back of a truck, giving his very fine version of 'Once more into the breach, dear friends, once more…' from Henry V."

Patrick Dromgoole's involvement with Habima began soon after the company brought over its production of Anski's The Dybbuk to the Aldwych as part of London's World Theatre season. The production, disparaged as "a museum piece" by one critic, was nonetheless a sell-out.

Last updated: 2:20pm, May 24 2012