Monday, May 28, 2012

Hath Not A Palestinian Eyes?

Shylock reaches down to grab his knife to take his pound of flesh from Antonio, and from the yard someone yells "Do Palestinians not have eyes? Do they not bleed?" The actor, bent over clutching the knife, emotionally stares into the audience. The actor could take that knife and cut the tension with it. We hear rustling and yelling as the Globe security guards drag the man away. "Piss off!" someone quips at the protester. We all laugh. The actors don't move--stunned. "Keep going! We're with you!" encourages someone from the right of me. The actors take a deep breath, and the show withe the show.

This sums up my experience at the Globe Theatre tonight. What play could cause such a raucous? The Merchant of Venice performed in Hebrew by an Israeli company. When they announced this play, I knew I had to go. When I arrived at the play tonight, there were police men around the Globe and Palestinian and Israeli flags waving at opposite ends of the street. Before I could enter the building, a newspaper reporter asked me a few questions.

Reporter: Why did you come to this play?
Me: I studied for four months in Jerusalem. I also bought a ticket to see the Palestinian production. Reporter: Oh wow.
yada, yada, yada...
Reporter: Can I get your name and a picture.
Me: No....

Yeah, I don't know if they will use me or not for their article. Oh well, I felt important answering her questions. I like feeling important. Once inside the Globe, usually a free and easy place to get into, you went through metal detectors and had people rummage through your purse. Before the play began, the  current director of the Globe Theatre appeared on stage to address the audience about respect for artists and to not shush or attempt to capture any protesters during the performance. And there were protesters throughout the production. People began chanting thing, some held signs, etc. At one point, one of the noisy groups were taken out by the security guards so they put tape over their mouths and stood up for the first part of the performance making peace signs. Like I said, it was one of the most tense performances I have been to. Want to know the interesting thing? None of the protesters were Palestinians. I saw the audience file in for Richard II--the Palestinian production for the Globe--and there is a Palestinian community in London.

The company performed a solid play with interesting steam punk/Elizabethan/white costumes and a few excellent performances by individual actors. As expected, the production portrayed Shylock as sympathetic as possible. I don't begrudge them this decision, but I hoped for a less expected interpretation of the Venice Jew. Everyone gave them a standing ovation for just getting through the play with protestors yelling at them throughout the play.

So I would call tonight an interesting evening. 

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