Neither Sense Nor Sensibility

Oscar winner Emma Thompson, the star of ‘Sense and Sensibility’, is amongst a group of British entertainment people who are showing neither.

Two-time Oscar winner Emma Thompson is among three dozen actors, directors and writers protesting the inclusion of an Israeli theater company at an upcoming Shakespeare festival in England.

Recent Tony winner Mark Rylance and seven-time Oscar nominee Mike Leigh are among the other artists who signed a letter expressing “dismay and regret” that Tel Aviv’s Habimah theater will be participating in Globe to Globe, a six-week festival taking place at Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London.

“Habima [sic] has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory,” says the letter, published March 29 in England’s Guardian newspaper. The document notes that unlike other members of Israel’s theater community, Habimah did not participate in a boycott of a controversial cultural center that opened in Ariel, a West Bank settlement, in 2010. “By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law,” the letter says.

Signed by more than three dozen English artists, the letter declares that signatories have “no problem” with Globe to Globe’s desire to include Hebrew in the festival, which will showcase the Bard’s 37 plays in 37 languages. “But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company,” the letter states. “We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.”

Other companies participating in the festival include the National Theatre of China, which will perform “Richard III” in Mandarin,” and the Ashtar Theatre, a Palestinian company that will perform “Richard II” in Arabic.

Habimah is currently scheduled to perform “The Merchant of Venice” at the festival twice in late May.

Here’s the letter in its entirety:

We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has invited Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May. The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation “an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel”. But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory. Last year, two large Israeli settlements established “halls of culture” and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared they would not take part.

Habima, however, accepted the invitation with alacrity, and promised the Israeli minister of culture that it would “deal with any problems hindering such performances”. By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.

The Globe says it wants to “include” the Hebrew language in its festival – we have no problem with that. “Inclusiveness” is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it. But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so that the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.

David Aukin producer
Poppy Burton-Morgan artistic director, Metta Theatre
Leo Butler playwright
Niall Buggy actor
David Calder actor
Jonathan Chadwick director
Caryl Churchill playwright
Michael Darlow writer, director
John Graham Davies actor, writer
Trevor Griffiths playwright
Annie Firbank actor
Paul Freeman actor
Matyelok Gibbs actor
Tony Graham director
Janet Henfrey actor
James Ivens artistic director, Flood Theatre
Andrew Jarvis actor, director, teacher
Neville Jason actor
Ursula Jones actor
Professor Adah Kay academic, playwright
Mike Leigh film-maker, dramatist
Sonja Linden playwright, iceandfire theatre
Roger Lloyd Pack actor
Cherie Lunghi actor
Miriam Margolyes actor
Kika Markham actor
Jonathan Miller director, author and broadcaster
Frances Rifkin director
Mark Rylance actor
Alexei Sayle comedian, writer
Farhana Sheikh writer
Emma Thompson actor, screenwriter
Andy de la Tour actor, director
Harriet Walter actor
Hilary Westlake director
Richard Wilson actor, director
Susan Wooldridge actor, writer

I guess Thompson has been hanging out with Vanessa Redgrave a bit too much.

Looking at the schedule of Globe to Globe, it looks like participants include companies from the palestinian territories and Turkey, whose treatment of others is nothing short of disgraceful. Heck, they could even take issue with Britain’s inclusion (Falkland Islands anyone?) Funny how these sanctimonious Brits single out the Israeli company for “special” treatment.

Given the underlying motivation behind this hypocrisy, I’d have thought they would be happy with an Israeli company performing an antisemitic play.

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About Aussie Dave

An Aussie immigrant to Israel, Aussie Dave is founder of Israellycool, one of the world's most popular pro-Israel blogs (and the one you are currently reading) He is a happy family man, and a lover of steak, Australian sports and girlie drinks