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Israeli theatre company expects Globe Shakespeare disruption

    President Shimon Peres attending the gala opening of the revamped Habimah Theatre last month
    President Shimon Peres attending the gala opening of the revamped Habimah Theatre last month

    A senior Habimah Theatre producer has admitted that actors expect anti-Israel activists will succeed in disrupting their performance at a major international festival at Shakespeare's Globe Theatre in May.

    Israel's leading theatre company will perform The Merchant Of Venice in Hebrew as part of a six-week event at the Globe to coincide with the Cultural Olympiad.

    The executive, who does not want to be identified, said the Israelis feared their performance being halted. She said: "I've been worried for a long time because of what happened with the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra at the Royal Albert Hall. It will be a great shame if they protest, but I am sure it will not be peaceful.

    "The Globe is aware of the threat and we hope they will do everything possible. They have to think really hard about how to prevent the protesters getting in. It's a real challenge.

    "It is very difficult; there is no way to stop them. The boycotters could flood the crowd with activists. But do they think stopping us will bring peace quicker?"

    The producer said Habimah had been devising ways to work around any disruption, and might even have a "surprise" for potential protesters. She added: "We are very much against all boycotts. Our artists often do things for the Palestinians and privately they go to demonstrations [to lend support]."

    A Globe spokeswoman said "all sensible precautions" would be taken but would not disclose how it planned to stop demonstrators.

    The theatre has already rejected opposition to its invitation to Habimah. Boycott From Within, formed by Israelis who back the boycott movement, wrote to Globe directors last month, highlighting performances by Habimah in the West Bank settlements of Ariel and Kiryat Arba.

    BFW complained: "By inviting Habimah to perform in London, you are siding with its administrators in the debate on settlement performances, and you are taking a step against the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to perform in the settlements." But the Globe hit back, publishing an open letter stating that festival directors had "deliberated long and hard" before deciding that "active exclusion was a profoundly problematic stance to take".

    The Globe concluded: "Habimah is the most well-known and respected Hebrew-language theatre company in the world, and are a natural choice to any programmer wishing to host a dramatic production in Hebrew.

    "They are committed, publicly, to providing an ongoing arena for sensible dialogue between Jews and Arabs, Israelis and Palestinians. "

    The Globe, which said it had reached the right decision about Habimah, added that the Ramallah-based Ashtar Theatre would be performing an Arabic version of Shakespeare's Richard II at the festival.

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