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Israeli theatre group: Fringe has given up on us

Members of the Incubator Theatre company from Jerusalem, who face being unable to perform in Edinburgh. Picture: Scott Louden

Members of the Incubator Theatre company from Jerusalem, who face being unable to perform in Edinburgh. Picture: Scott Louden

  • by BRIAN FERGUSON
 

AN Israeli arts group insists it has not given up hope of performing at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe - despite its original venue abandoning efforts to find a new home for its controversial show.

Incubator Theatre’s artistic director Arik Eshet insisted his group would be staying in the city in the hope of reviving its show, which has only had one public performance in the space of a week due to the threat of pro-Palestine protests.

But he said it felt like the Fringe was “giving up” on the company, which staged a private performance for friends and family, and had handed victory to “political gladiators” by failing to allow its planned performances to go ahead.

Fringe chiefs expressed dismay at the complete abandonment of the company’s hip hop opera production - seven days after Incubator was forced out of Edinburgh University’s Reid Hall due to the disruption caused by more than 150 protesters.

They turned up outside the venue to demand the cancellation of the show because Incubator is funded by the Israeli government. Underbelly had already faced demands from some of Scotland’s leading artists to pull the show.

The statement from the festival said: “The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is underpinned by our open access principles. These principles guarantee artists the freedom to present their work to the public without the intervention of a curator or the need for official approval. We are therefore deeply saddened when any artist or show is prevented from taking part in the Fringe. We have done what we can to support Underbelly and Incubator Theatre as the situation has developed and we respect the difficult decisions that they have taken.

“To be clear, our commitment to freedom of expression means that we support the right of all participants of the Fringe and members of the public to hold and express differing political views, but we also believe in an artist’s right to freedom of expression, and that the curtailment of this freedom is contrary to the fundamental ethos of the festival.”

Earlier this week a student dance company, Pola, was forced to pull out of the Fringe because of the threat of protests at another venue, the St Bride’s Centre, in the Dalry area. The group is attached to the state-funded Ben-Gurion University of the Negev.

A statement from Underbelly said: “Underbelly and Incubator Theatre have worked very hard to find an alternative venue for The City. We are very disappointed to announce that unfortunately we have been unable to find a space that is viable for the show and for the security of the audience.”

Mr Eshet said: “We are sad and depressed at what has happened, but we are still looking for another venue, we are not going back to Israel. It does feel like the Fringe has given up on us. Other artists around the world will be looking at what has happened here in Edinburgh. This is the first time performances have ever been cancelled due to political pressure.”

A Scottish Government spokeswoman said: “We have repeatedly stated on this issue that the government does not tell individual venues or galleries what they can or cannot programme.”

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