Israeli Fringe stars insist show must go on

The show is described as a 'gritty and darkly comic whodunit hip hop opera'. Picture: Getty
The show is described as a 'gritty and darkly comic whodunit hip hop opera'. Picture: Getty
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THE Israeli arts company which has been targeted by protesters at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe hopes to relaunch its controversial show tomorrow.

Arik Eshet, artistic director of Incubator Theatre, said the company had no intention of leaving Edinburgh after being forced to shelve a full run of shows.

Mr Eshet revealed he had been offered an alternative venue by Fringe promoters Underbelly as a “compromise” for having to leave their initial venue, Edinburgh University’s Reid Hall, because of the disruption caused by a protest before the first performance. The company has faced protests amid the Gaza conflict because it is part-funded by the Israeli state.

Although up to nine venues are thought to have been looked at as alternative locations in the last couple of days, the favourite is believed to be the new extension to the Festival Theatre at Potterrow.

Known as Topside during the Fringe, the 200-seater venue is leased out to London promoters Underbelly by the city council-owned venue, which unveiled the new facilities last summer.

It is thought security talks with police chiefs and council officials still have to be held before Incubator Theatre can start selling tickets again.

The cancellation of the company’s entire run at the Reid Hall was announced just hours after the first performance, which attracted more than 150 demonstrators and a heavy police 

Mr Eshet said he was “very saddened” at having to cancel shows for the first time in his company’s history and criticised the demonstrators for trying to “pick on and intimidate” members of the public going in to see the show, The City.

He urged the police to ensure that freedom of expression is maintained in Edinburgh during the festival, as well as the freedom to protest.

He told The Scotsman: “We have come to Edinburgh with a show that is completely unpolitical. It is a hip hop opera and detective story inspired by film noir.

“We have no plans to leave Edinburgh at all. We intend to stay here to put on the show and we hope we will get enough protection to allow us to do so.

“I have a lot of sympathy for the decision that was taken by Underbelly. The protesters who turned up were really picking on and intimidating the public – it was not a good atmosphere.”

Announcing the cancellation, Underbelly director Charlie Wood said the attempts to stop the company performing were “plain wrong” and went against the entire ethos of the Fringe.

A spokesman for Police Scotland said: “We respect individuals’ right to protest peacefully. This will be balanced against the needs and rights of those impacted by the event, and the public can be sure that criminal activity will not be tolerated.”

A Scottish Government spokesman said: “We do not tell individual venues or galleries what they can or cannot programme and we do not advocate or support cultural boycotts.”