Israelis fear protests at Globe Shakespeare festival

By Jennifer Lipman, October 6, 2011
Shakespeare’s Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe

The producer bringing an Israeli theatre company to perform for the first time at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre has described it as "a dream come true".

But Rut Tonn of the Habima Theatre also expressed concern that the production would be targeted by protesters.

Habima's version of The Merchant of Venice will be one of 37 plays staged in 37 different languages at the Globe next April as part of an international William Shakespeare festival. The six-week event, which opens on Shakespeare's birthday, has been arranged to coincide with the Cultural Olympics before the summer Games. In addition to the Israelis taking on Shylock in Hebrew, the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre company will perform Richard II.

"It's a blessing that we can both take part," said Ms Tonn. "We are always looking for collaborations which will help with the Israeli-Palestinian conflict."

She said: "Being asked to take part was like a dream, because for us London is like the Mecca of the theatre world. And it's not just London, but the Globe as well. It was like someone calling and saying I'd won the lottery."

The organisers chose the play for them – "It's a very obvious choice," she said – and the challenge now is to work on a production within the Globe's traditional set and lighting.

"It's limiting but it can be a route to great creativity," said Ms Tonn, adding that she was sure that director Ilan Ronen would rise to the challenge.

But she said she was concerned about problems with anti-Israel protesters at the two shows, after the IPO performance was badly disrupted during its show at the Royal Albert Hall last month.

"There's always a question of how it will go," she said. "I hope it will be OK, but I have my concerns, and it's very expensive for the company to go to London. It's very important for us to do it and also for Israel that it goes well."

In true dramatic irony, observant Jewish theatre fans will only be able to attend one of the two performances as the first is taking place on Shavuot. Likewise, one of the two Palestinian stagings will be on Shabbat.

"There was no suggestion that this might be a problem when the dates were raised with the company and the Israeli Embassy," said event spokesman Stephen Pidcock.

Last updated: 2:09pm, October 6 2011