Gabriel Varghese

University of Exeter | Exeter, UK

Acting on the Pain of others: International Solidarity and Theatre Making in the West Bank

Since the signing of the Oslo Accords, and in the absence of structural support from the Palestinian Authority for developing the arts industries, theatre companies in the West Bank have increasingly and actively sought out collaborative opportunities with practitioners based, primarily, in the West. Based on field work carried out in 2013 and 2014, this paper offers case studies of two such productions. The first, Our Sign is the Stone, was produced by The Freedom Theatre in 2013 and toured five villages around the West Bank. Written and directed by two English theatre-makers, the play attempted to document the experiences of residents of Nabi Saleh viz settler and military violence. The second case study, This Flesh is Mine, was a co-production in 2014 between Ashtar and the UK-based theatre company Border Crossings. A re-working of Homer’s Iliad, the play was performed in Ramallah before completing a run in London.

The questions I intend to explore in this paper focus on the increased involvement of internationals in the Palestinian theatre scene. Our Sign is the Stone and This Flesh is Mine present theatre practitioners and scholars with a potentially rewarding discussion about the nature of collaborative relationships and processes in sites of oppression. What draws local theatre-makers to seek out collaborative opportunities with international practitioners? What factors determine the collaborative relationship? What are the challenges and obstacles they face in negotiating such relationships? What are those interpersonal dynamics that help or hinder collaboration? And what is the efficacy of “activist theatre” in relation to the theatres themselves and their audiences?

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