Saturday, 9 June 2012

Theatre as Threat

George Hunka reminds us that in some parts of the world theatre provides a genuine political threat. Two nights ago, Israeli armed forces raided the home of Nabil Al Raee, the artistic director of The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, arresting him and terrifying his three year old daughter Mina. The Freedom Theatre is a theatre and cultural centre in the Jenin Refugee Camp, 60km from Ramallah and home to 10,000 people (40% of whom are under 15), that "offers space in which children and youth can act, create and express themselves freely, imagining new realities and challenging existing social and cultural barriers." Its productions have toured internationally, giving these young people a voice. Drama is often used as therapy for trauma, as this short video shows.

I'm told by those who have visited the theatre that this is a place in which Palestinian, international and even Israeli artists and activists come together despite (or maybe because of) differences in nationhood, religion, gender, class, and even race in order to make a difference in lives.

The company has been raided many times. A year ago, its charismatic founding Artistic Director, Juliano Mer-Khamis, was shot in the head five times with his baby son in his lap by a masked gunman outside the theatre. The identity of the assassin remains a mystery.

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