Israeli actors defy Fringe axe with silent play

The Israeli actors perform in silence yesterday as pro-Palestinian activists chant and boo; below, a sit-in at Princes Street. Photographs: Malcolm McCurrach
The Israeli actors perform in silence yesterday as pro-Palestinian activists chant and boo; below, a sit-in at Princes Street. Photographs: Malcolm McCurrach
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ISRAELI actors whose Fringe show was cancelled following pro-Palestinian protests yesterday performed a silent version of their hour-long play in their own protest – on the same day thousands took to the streets of Edinburgh to voice their opposition to bombing in Gaza.

The show – a “hip-hop opera” performed in rap – was axed after its first performance attracted major protests from campaigners urging an end to the violence in Gaza.

Incubator Theatre performed the entire show yesterday without making a sound at an outdoor site near their original Reid Hall venue at Bristo Square in Edinburgh.

They also said they may stage repeated silent performances of the play throughout the festival in protest.

Around 200 pro-Palestinian activists turned up at the event, chanting loudly and booing throughout the performance.

Protesters said their objections lay in the fact that the group received funding from the Israeli state.

Just two hours earlier, around 2,000 people staged a protest rally in Edinburgh’s city centre to call for an end to the situation in Gaza, where more than 1,800 people have so far been killed and almost 10,000 injured.

Campaigners gathered at The Mound in Edinburgh, where they were addressed by speakers including Green MSP Alison Johnstone and the STUC General Council’s Mike Arnott, and marched to the First Minister’s Bute House residence on St Andrew Square.

They also staged a two-minute silent sit-in on Princes Street in memory of those who have died.

In London, tens of thousands took to the streets to protest against Israel, organised by the Stop the War coalition and the Palestine Solidarity Campaign.

Following the demonstration in Edinburgh, a breakaway group of campaigners made their way to Bristo Square to protest against the Israeli play.

“The fact Israelis are performing here is just fine. What we object to is that they have taken money from the Israeli state,” said protester Eurig Scandrett from North Berwick.

“There is very little we in this country can do to support the people who are being bombed in Gaza, but what we can do is boycott the Israeli state.

“It is unfortunate for these young actors, but we do need to show that taking money from the state is wrong.

“We should not give them the credibility of the artistic world.”

The silent performance was in support of freedom of speech at the Edinburgh Fringe, the company’s artistic director Arik Ashet said. “We want to achieve awareness of what happened to us,” said Ashet. “It was an invitation for anyone else who opposes something to stop other shows. Today it is us because we’re from Israel, but next year it could be about any other issue where people disagree.”

He added: “In Israel I will vote, but that does not make me the government’s agent. I did not come here for politics.”

He said the group had given up trying to find an alternative venue and would instead stage silent protests.

Yoni Satat, an Israeli who has lived in Edinburgh for five years, turned up to support the actors. “I completely disagree with the Israeli government in Gaza, but this has nothing to do with the Fringe,” he told Scotland on Sunday. “The UK is supplying arms to Israel, so perhaps all UK shows should be banned too.”

Avri Havron, whose son co-wrote the production, said he had “a lot of sympathy” for Palestinians but was “disappointed” that the group had not been allowed to perform.

“They are all very disappointed. They came here because it is the most prestigious arts festival in the world and it is sad that this is the only exposure they are getting.”

Protest organiser Ian MacDonald said the group had no regrets at blocking the show.

“When I look at the carnage in Gaza, I do not feel bad for someone having to go home without seeing this show or the actors not getting to perform,” he said.

Speaking on behalf of the ­organisers of yesterday’s march, Albie O’Neill of the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign said: “The people of Scotland are repulsed by what is happening in Gaza and are demanding that the slaughter of innocents must end.

“But they are also demanding that something be done to force Israel to cease its illegal practices in Gaza and the rest of Palestine.”


Edinburgh Fringe: Second Israel-funded show pulled