Security clampdown at Globe for Habima's Merchant in Hebrew

Members of Habima in a production of  Bravo! a celebration of the company’s best musical shows

Members of Habima in a production of Bravo! a celebration of the company’s best musical shows

Shakespeare's Globe has stepped up security in anticipation of next week's two performances by Israel's Habima Theatre Company in order to avoid a repeat of the scenes at the Proms last year.

The Hebrew-language production of The Merchant of Venice has been beset by controversy, with a group of high-profile stage names calling on the Globe to boycott the Israeli company.

Pro-Palestinian activists have made clear their intention to disrupt proceedings with demonstrations at both performances. Both shows are now sold out.

"Come along to these protests outside the Globe London…to tell the Globe that Israeli apartheid must leave the stage," wrote the Palestine Solidarity campaign on Twitter. The Zionist Federation has arranged a counter-demonstration.

Last September the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra's concert at the BBC proms was interrupted by anti-Israel protesters who sang about "Israeli apartheid" as the performance began. The BBC was forced to halt its live broadcast as a result.

Although additional security measures had been promised by the Royal Albert Hall, only limited bag searches were conducted.

In a letter sent this week to ticket-holders, the Globe reserved the right "to refuse admission to anyone we have reason to believe may cause a disruption" and that "any objects or material which could be used in disrupting the performance will be deemed prohibited items".

The organisers warned that individuals who attempted to disrupt the show would be asked to leave and advised that ticket-holders should leave bags at home.

The letter also said that there would be "enhanced security processes in place" including extensive checks of bags and audience members, with food and drink banned in the auditorium and no video or photography equipment allowed at the venue.

The audience has been advised to arrive up to 90 minutes before curtain-up, with plans for the show to be significantly delayed "if the majority of the audience arrive after 7pm".

When the festival was announced, Habima's Rut Tonn expressed concern about protesters causing trouble.

"I have my concerns," she said. "It's very important for us to do it and also for Israel that it goes well."

Last updated: 9:58am, May 25 2012