The intimate reception on the top floor of the Globe theatre on Monday night, after the Habima actors had taken off costumes and makeup, was the first chance to let down their guard after hours of tense rehearsals and preparations.
Liraz Chamami, the youngest of the actors, who played Jessica, said: “When I saw the level of security at the entrance to the theatre, I just didn’t want to go on the stage. But it was an incredible experience when I actually did.”
Aviv Alush, who played Gratiano, and was on stage when the first pro-Palestinian protesters began shouting and unfurling banners from the gallery, said: “It was hard, because I had to shout louder and make the audience look at me, instead of the protesters.”
But some of the actors just wanted to bask in the glory of Habima’s successful first night playing The Merchant of Venice at Shakespeare’s Globe.
Alon Ophir, a Habima veterans who played the role of Antonio, declared: “For me as an actor, to play in central London has always been a life-long dream. So to be here, playing at the Globe, where it all began, is even better. But at some stage, when we saw the protesters, it wasn’t just acting, I felt almost as if on a mission.”
Yaakov Cohen, who played Shylock, agreed: "I also felt it was a mission, as a Jew, to play such a difficult and controversial play. It is a role that you can play as a nasty piece of work. Someone vindictive and grabbing and the text leads you there, that’s the greatness of Shakespeare, that you can play the role in different ways.
"I played him as someone who is continuously being mocked and beaten up, someone who loves his daughter, even when she leaves him. I wanted him to be someone the audience could identify with, and I put my entire soul into it. I barely noticed the hecklers.”
Culture Minister Ed Vaizey, who attended the play joined the actors later. He said: “No one should disturb artists from performing. This has nothing to do with politics.”
Israeli ambassador Daniel Taub added: “This is a theatre that was built from the ashes, and for the first time we heard here a language that was resurrected from the ashes.”