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Israeli director’s anxiety as her tale plays at Fringe

    Ariella Eshed
    Ariella Eshed

    Israeli theatre director Ariella Eshed is staging her play 5 Kilo Sugar, set in Tel Aviv, at Edinburgh despite concerns over last year's anti-Israel protests that forced the cancellation of a performance by an Israeli theatre company.

    Ms Eshed, who lives in Finchley, founded the Tik-sho-ret company in 2005 to give a platform to Jewish and Israeli theatre in the UK. She admitted she is worried about possible protests but, speaking to the JC this week, she said they had not encountered any problems at the first two performances.

    At 2014's Edinburgh Festival Fringe, The City - a hip-hop opera - was cancelled on safety grounds after pro-Palestinians protested against the Jerusalem-based Incubator theatre company who had received some of their funding from the Israeli government. A second Israeli show by the Pola Dance Company from Ben Gurion University then pulled out of their Edinburgh run before it had even begun.

    Ms Eshed said the Israeli Embassy was "very supportive in the cultural department, but I didn't request financial support from them".

    Jerusalem-born Ms Eshed expressed her opposition to artistic boycotts: "Usually the artists' voices are the ones who are more moderate or who want to show another perspective. Arts are bringing a mirror to society… by blocking these voices we lose a chance to see these angles."

    Edinburgh Fringe's Neil Mackinnon, said that the absence of any shows from Israel this year was unconnected to last year's protests.

    Comedy 5 Kilo Sugar, is a "mockumentary" about a young man who encounters his deceased East European grandfather's ghost channelled through various characters he meets in the streets of Tel Aviv, including a taxi driver, a beggar and a prostitute. The run of 5 Kilo Sugar at the Space on the Mile ends this weekend.

    One Fringe performance this year is a response to last summer's anti-Israel protests. Director Cressida Brown came up with the idea for Walking the Tightrope: the Tension Between Art and Politics after a series of cancellations of cultural events in 2014.

    A series of five-minute plays (including one by Caryl Churchill, author of the controversial Seven Jewish Children) will be followed by a discussion between a panel, including Israeli embassy minister-counsellor for cultural affairs Dan Golan, and the audience.

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