Welcome to Az Theatre’s blog

These are the different strands you might like to follow:

If you want to read the blog that has accompanied the development of our War & Peace: Gaza (Palestine)/ London (UK) project and follow the story right through to the present including the email blog that Hossam Madhoun, Director of Theatre for Everybody sent during the 2014 attack on Gaza CLICK HERE or read the latest here click on the Category: War and Peace: Gaza-London in the categories box on the right.

If you want to read the blog that accompanied the development of the mappa mundi, the Az Theatre project that addressed the issue of personal, social and environmental change CLICK HERE If you want to find out a bit more about mappa mundi CLICK HERE

After the war: remembering a year ago 07/07/2015

Az Theatre and Theatre for Everybody are presenting Simultaneous – War & Peace – Gaza/London at Rich Mix on Sunday 13th September 2015 at 4pm.

We are showing a video of Theatre for Everybody’s workshop production of a stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace.  At the same time there will be a live presentation of the very same work in Gaza.  Then we will link up the two audiences via Skype live between Gaza and London.

Don’t miss this wonderful adventure in international cultural exchange!

peir

Above is a photograph of Hossam Madhoun in the role of Pierre Besukhov from Theatre fro Everybody’s production.

Book your tickets now via Rich Mix Box Office or call 0207 613 7498.

During the lead-up to this event we are asking people to ‘revisit’ the messages that Hossam Madhoun sent us during the ‘war’ on Gaza.  Operation Protective Edge was launched by the Israelis on 7th July 2014.

And we are asking Hossam to comment now as he looks back at what he wrote last year.

Here is his message on 3rd July last year: Unable to be wise.

Here is his message on 6th July last year: Zero Opportunity.

Here is his message on 8th July last year: Good Morning

I asked Hossam in a recent telephone conversation how he felt now about the events a year ago.  His response was to send the piece below and then his friend Basel al Maqousee (find out about Basel’s work here) read this and sent us this piece of digital art, a homage to Gaza and Picasso:

after war

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Here is Hossam’s recent writing about the aftermath of the war a year later:

And here we are..
One year after the war..
Here we are we still alive after the war
We’re still eating and sleeping
We’re still going to work, watching TV,
Going out with friends who are still alive,
Visiting family members who survived,
Walking in the streets that don’t look like themselves any more
Meeting people who are not themselves any more
No one stays the same,
After the war
Mohammad celebrates his daughter’s birthday in the rubble of his house
which was bombed in the war,
Remembering a wife and a son,
A wall and a door,
A bed and calm evenings,
And memories that went with the war
Samira, the 7 year old trying to catch her doll, but she doesn’t find her
hand,
It went with the war
Ali’s mother still prepares food for six people,
Her husband is unable to convince her that three of her sons went with
the war,
She still believes that they will come back, and when they come back,
they will come back hungry…
One year after the war and we still go to the Cafe and play cards,
Drinking our coffee without sugar,
Smoking our hubbly bubbly,
Showing our latest selfies on our Facebook pages,
But our photos are not the same as one year ago,
Our photos are not the same as before the war,
Darkness fell over our photos despite the flashlight
Nothing remains the same after the war
And there are different kinds of wars, my friend
There is war from the sky, from the land, from the sea,
In the war from the sky, bombardment comes from everywhere; you
cannot predict when and where it will strike, so you cannot hide, and
you stay still
Waiting for death with a strange involuntary smile on your face
In the war from land, you also don’t know when and where the shells will
fall
So again you cannot hide, and you stay still
Waiting for death with a strange involuntary smile on your face
Wars are a very strange thing, difficult to describe, my friend,
War ends and you believe you survived, but after a while you realize that
the war is still going on within you, chasing you in your dreams, in the
destructions around you, in the funerals and the sad faces in the streets
and the markets,
In the sorrow of those who lost their beloved relatives
Wars do not end or leave simply,
Suddenly your 11 years old child wets their bed, and your wife has
nightmares,
You too, but you don’t admit it!
Your clever daughter is getting very low marks at school and she
doesn’t know why,
Suddenly your kind and nice neighbor doesn’t stop yelling and shouting
at his wife and kids
Day and night and no one can stop him,
Your eldest son wakes up in panic with any strange sound
A knock at the door, a cup falls and breaks, a fast car’s wheels scream
in the street
After war, nothing remains the same.
Before war, there were no people living in a half-destroyed homes or
sheltering in schools,
Before war there were no children or women looking for something to
eat in the garbage
Before war there weren’t thousands of beggars of all ages, children,
youth, women, men,
Before war there weren’t 50.000 people without homes
Before war there weren’t 800,000 children suffering from fear,
nightmares, bed-wetting, sleep disturbance, anxiety,
Before war…
Before war …
Before war…
And after the war????????????????????!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Thanks, Hossam.

 

 

 

 

Back to GO! 16/02/2015

I promised I would keep you updated by writing a blog of my trip to Palestine.

I went to Palestine on Saturday 7th February and came back on Sunday 15th February.  I failed to get into Gaza to pursue the work on War and Peace.

Caryl Churchill and I worked on her recent play, Love and Information, at Ashtar Theatre.   The British Council accommodated us.  The Royal Court Theatre provided finance for the translation.  We paid for the travel and did the work for free.  It was our contribution, like planting a play in Palestine!

I was also asked by British Actors Equity Association to approach theatre artists and performers to get them to provide an overview of performing arts in the Occupied Palestinian Territories so that Equity can provide support and solidarity for fellow workers there.  I had good conversations and this will have successful outcomes!

I didn’t take a laptop and I was unable to get into the back-end of this blog because I didn’t have the address/URL.

What do you need to know?

The actors in the workshop on ‘Love and Information’ were wonderful, imaginative, inventive.  We all fell in love with each other.  There were all sorts of inspiring and intriguing problems working on a play with over 50 scenes, with no repetition of characters, with no indication of location nor attribution of speech.  There’s too much to say.

Caryl and I worked from the Sunday evening after our arrival until the Thursday evening when there was a presentation.

During the week we visited Bethlehem and were introduced to the wonderful work of Al Harah Theatre company.  They have started a wonderful new course for design, technical and production.

After the presentation we visited the old city in Jerusalem and the following day we visited a theatre company, Al Rowwad, and a school, Hope Flowers School, in Bethlehem.  Then we visited the old town of Bethlehem and saw where the baby Jesus was born.  During the trip I was able to stay with my friends who had lived with us in London when their son was a one year old.  I remember his first birthday.  Now he is 14.

Yes, we had a wonderful time and it wasn’t even spoiled one jot on our way back by the security at the airport keeping us for two hours and thoroughly searching our bodies and all our belongings and asking us lots of questions.

It was on the second day that Iman Aoun, the director of Ashtar Theatre finally got through to the Palestinian Authority minister that the Palestinian Mission in London had recommended we contact about access to Gaza.  They referred me back to the British Embassy and /or humanitarian aid organisations.

This time impossible, round in circles, back to GO.

So, although other foreign nationals can travel to Gaza – I heard about Portuguese and Italian arts practitioners getting access – the UK government remains complicit in the Israeli-imposed blockade and accepts the Israeli conception of humanitarian aid.

Of course anybody who knows anything will tell you that it’s impossible to get into Gaza but they always know an exception to the rule.  A friend there told me that obtaining a Press Card could secure access!  I will keep trying.

What happened to me while I was in Palestine?

I became more and more convinced that genocide is being committed there.  I learned before I went, through the work of Daniel Feierstein that genocide is a social process that seeks to destroy the identity of the oppressed people and replace this identity with that of the oppressor.  In this he cites the work of Raphael Lemkin, the man who first used the word.

Lemkin said: “Genocide has two phases: one, destruction of the national pattern of the oppressed group; the other, the imposition of the national pattern of the oppressor. This imposition, in turn, may be made upon the oppressed population which is allowed to remain or upon the territory alone, after removal of the population and the colonization by the oppressor’s own nationals.”

Questions about international justice cluster around the issue of genocide and definitions  about the social practices involved are matters of debate and definition.  I’m not an expert nor a lawyer.  I am seeking some way of expressing what I witnessed.

How can we explain the transposition of the kind of ‘patterns’ Lemkin refers to? What are the consequences of the genocide carried out by the National Socialist regime in Germany between 1933 and 1945?  I am not alone in making the observation that the Zionism of the Israeli state mimics the ‘oppressor’ pattern.

What does this mean for the future of Palestinian society?

Daniel Feierstein points out that genocides go through certain distinct stages.  He says that understanding this can help us to stop these processes.

On our first morning before we started work on ‘Love and Information’ we were taken by Medical Aid for Palestinians to look at the work of a mobile medical unit working in a village near Jericho in the Jordan Valley.  The people in the village were Bedouin, nomadic people, herders of sheep and goat.  They are being systematically attacked through the ‘social reorganisation’ strategies of the Israelis.  Read more. Please look at the plans for E1 and the development of the Ma’ale Adumim settlement that would effectively cut the West Bank in half.  Read what Harriet Sherwood wrote in The Guardian two and a quarter years ago.

There is Zone A and Zone B and Zone C and Gaza and refugee camps in Jordan and Syria and Lebanon. There are people with Jerusalem IDs, those that are married to them who have only have Zone A IDs, those who have life partners who work with international organisations who have this kind of ID or number plates on their car who can travel on this road and those who can’t. And so on and on and on.

The man who gave a speech welcoming Pope Benedict to Aida refugee camp in Bethlehem in 2014, referred to apartheid and indicated the evidence of the illegal ‘separation’ wall towering over them. He had his Jerusalem ID/permit withdrawn by the Israelis for his straight-speaking. His wife and five children visit him only at weekends.

This is the phase of dividing up the oppressed.

Resistance is happening in myriad ways in all aspects of Palestinian society.  Please look at the work of Al Rowwad.  I cannot find a good way to describe how inspired I was by meeting Abdelfattah Abusrour, the Director of Al Rowwad.

I want to go back to the Palestine to help young theatre-makers create organisations similar to Al Rowwad.  I committed myself to doing so in response to a request from young theatre artists, one of whom came from Qalqilya.

Another thing happened while I was in Palestine.

I became even more convinced that BDS, the Boycott, Divestment and Sanctions movement – please look at their website – is a crucially important element in the resistance.

It was good to have the Artists for Palestine UK pledge announced while we were there.  More than 700 artists signed the initial pledge.  Hundreds more have joined them since.

I’m keeping this as short as possible.  The visit had a big impact on me.  Please get back to me at info@aztheatre.org.uk with any comments.  I’ll keep you updated with progress.

 

 

 

 

 

Blogging my trip to Palestine 03/02/2015

Jonathan Chadwick’s trip to Palestine in February 2015

Blog entry One

So this is the situation.  I’ll try to keep you posted about my trip to Palestine.

The aim was to visit my colleagues in Gaza in order to pursue our project to create an original new Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace in Gaza.  Now it looks quite unlikely that I will get permission from the Israelis.  But I will still be going to the West Bank.

We’ve been planning our War and Peace project for some time.  We thought it would be relatively easy to get in and out of Gaza through the Rafah crossing via Egypt but after the army take-over in Egypt this is now impossible.

Theatre for Everybody in Gaza have produced a good Arabic translation of a stage adaptation that was produced in the 1950 in Germany.  We have presented two events as benefits to finance the work.  Both events were at Rich Mix.  One in September and the other in January.  At both these events there were readings of stage adaptations of Tolstoy’s works and skype conversations with our colleagues in Gaza.

The work in Gaza has been held up by the recent ‘war’ and the subsequent ‘peace’.  The situation there is dreadful.  We thought that if I visited Gaza and worked with Theatre for Everybody it would get things moving and it would help to break down the isolation they feel.

I was advised that there might be a way of securing permission to go to Gaza by meeting people in the Palestinian government in Ramallah so when Caryl Churchill said she would like to go to Palestine because she’d never been, I suggested to Ashtar Theatre that we go together and we could do a workshop on her recent play Love and Information.

We are going to the West Bank on Saturday 7th February and we will be welcomed and accommodated by the British Council and we are really looking forward to meeting friends old and new there and doing the work on this exciting and challenging play.  The British Council will not help with the trip to Gaza.  A trip there would be against UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office guidelines.

At first, I tried to gain permission to cross through Eres to Gaza by asking Theatre Day, a children’s company that operates in Gaza that is registered with the Israeli authorities and managed to get Steve Tiller into Gaza last year, if they could facilitate this.  They couldn’t help me.

I have subsequently asked the PLO mission in London and they have indicated they will do what they can to give me the necessary contacts in Ramallah to make contact with the Israeli authorities.  Their Cultural Attache responded helpfully.

I researched how permissions are granted by the Israelis and I have been in contact with the International Relations Department of the Israeli Ministry of Social Affairs.  I was pointed in their direction by an official of the Israeli Co-ordination and Liaison Administration to the Gaza Strip.  The CLAGaza have an online application procedure for people wanting to cross through Eres.  For this it is necessary to have an IVA number which you obtain on the registration of the applicant organisation by the aforementioned Department.  I have seen the Department’s Information letter relating to the application for registration and as far as possible I have supplied Renee Techelet, Director of the International Relations Department, all the required documentation about Az Theatre and my own passport details.

I have been told in a telephone conversation with an official, acting under instruction from Ms Techelet, that at the current time there were 12 other organisations applying for registration and that the usual waiting time was between 6 months and 9 months.  Also since there are about to be elections in Israel these registration processes were likely to take even longer because in this interim period there was no decisive ministerial brief to guide policy.  He advised me to get back in touch in April and to be prepared for a nine month wait while the relevant security inquiries were made about Az Theatre’s status as an international humanitarian organisation.

There is still a slim chance that I will be able to get permission through some contact the Palestinian government may have with the Israeli authorities.  I will keep trying.

So that’s about it.

Oh yes, as well as all this I have been asked by British Actors Equity Association to make contact with performing artists in Palestine because they are interested in supporting their fellow workers there.  I’m really pleased to do this.  I think it is a really great initiative.

I think it will be an interesting trip. I am going to write a progress report every two days.

Why am I going to China

Here is the statement of intent that I have written in order to tell people why I am going to China for a three week trip.

“I will arrive in Kunming on Friday 25th October 2013 and stay with friends and visit the surrounding region for 5-7 days and then journey north visiting Shanghai and Xi’an to Beijing visiting places on the way. I haven’t confirmed the exact itinerary.  I will return to London on 17t November 2013.

I want to find out what is happening in China by making contact with theatre practitioners.  The main centres of theatre production may be Beijing and Shanghai but I also want to engage with theatre outside these main centres.

I am particularly interested in learning about the impact of the extraordinarily rapid industrialisation and urbanisation, taking place in China, on forms of theatre and performance.

I want to see, if possible, how traditional forms of performance are responding to the social and economic changes that are taking place.  Also I want to see how experimental forms are responding to these same processes.  In this way I hope to be able to look at these changes through the perspective of theatre practice.

I have had a long-term interest in Chinese philosophy and have tried to know as much as I can about the Chinese history but I am expert in neither topic.

As well as having depth of experience in directing and creating theatre in many different contexts both in the UK and internationally, I have directed theatre companies and founded arts organisations.  If you want to read more about my work go to: http://aztheatre.org.uk/wordpress/wp-content/uploads/2015/10/jonathanchadwickbiog-1.pdf

I have deep experience of training actors in drama academies and have made a special training programme around the work of Motokiyo Zeami (http://www.actingfrominnerspace.com). I currently teach MA students at the London Film School.

More recently I have undertaken a Masters of Science in Ecological Economics at University of Leeds.  Az Theatre, I am developing a project about social and environmental change called mappa mundi.  This involves mapping change through drama videos. http://aztheatre.org.uk/blog/category/mappa-mundi/

 

 

 

 

 

 

Old problems, new visions

Bertolt Brecht

Brecht‘s last poem:

And I always thought: the very simplest words                                                                   Must be enough.  When I say what things are like                                                             Everyone’s heart must be torn to shreds.                                                                            That you’ll go down if you don’t stand up for yourself                                                      Surely you see that.

Well it’s the last poem in his Poems 1913-1956 (Eyre Metheun 1976) anyway!

I thought of this poem when I was listening to Michael Alpert speak via an online video about alternative economics.  He was talking about the importance of having an alternative model of how things might work.  It involves a redefinition of work and how it is rewarded, organised and managed.  You can find out what he thinks for yourself.

He talks about things you can change and things you can’t.  If we spent all our effort on combatting ageing, he points out, we would be wasting our time.  He points out that capitalism (an economic system where there is a division between the people who organise and the people who do….so his definition covers most forms of socialism as well!) is not like ageing in that it is not given and unchangeable.  But we have to believe in an alternative.  This means we have to have a vision of it.

He says that the mentality that considers it inevitable has too much sway.  He uses the example of a conversation he had with someone during the bombing of Afghanistan in 2001.  He got his friend to agree that if they could get 10 million people out to protest they could stop the bombing of Afghanistan.  But, his friend added, they would find somewhere else to bomb!

The difficulty is that we live in the present not in the future.  We can have a vision of an alternative but how does this affect how we live now?  We cannot wish this alternative into being.  If we had the resources to live out this ideal vision now we would already have achieved our dream.  If we obey the dictum: ‘be the change!’, we may find ourselves living in a little ideal world inside this less perfect world.  Of course if everybody changed in this way then the whole of social life would be transformed.  But if they didn’t then there would be certain people living in their ideal world and the rest would be living in the ‘normal’ world.  If all the discontented people became content because they were living out their dream then things would pretty much remain the way they are!

All the struggles that we undertake to make our lives and the lives of others better may lead to success in which case the current system will have proved itself viable, credible and desirable.  History and experience seem to tell us that change comes when people move into action.  They get together with other people to try to change something in their circumstances.  In the course of these struggles people become aware of the obstacles placed in the way by the system and those guarding the status quo.  So how in this instance does having a vision of an alternative economy (or society) come into play?

This sounds like an old problem, the relationship between reform and revolution, or even between tactics and strategy.  This leads me back to Brecht’s poem.

I have always been interested in selflessness.  This is why at a certain point in the War Stories project I started to use the Alcestis story from Euripides’s play. Alcestis is the only person willing to give up her life to save her husband.  I saw the shape of this story in one told during our War Stories worskhops in Belgrade in 2004.  When NATO bombed Belgrade and the siren sounded this young woman remembered how she had only one thought in her head and that was for her little sister.  She frantically rushed around and until she discovered the little girl playing, mindless of any danger.  She remembered that panic though.  It taught her something about herself.

Jan Palach

Jan Palach

Likewise the first play I wrote, The Performance, which will be revived as a staged reading at the Municipal Theatre in Zlin in the Czech Republic in December, is about Jan Palach who burnt himself to death in January 1969 when the Warsaw Pact Countries invaded Czechoslovakia to prevent the reform movement connected with Alexander Dubcek’s government’s programme to create socialism with a human face, the movement that became known as the Prague Spring.

Antonin Artaud

In performance there is something both self augmenting and self destroying.  It is both ‘self-ful’ as well as selfless.  This is the drama of the martyr.  I was intrigued by Antonin Artaud’s description of actors being like figures signalling as they were being consumed by flames, like heretics.  I loved heretics.

Giordano Bruno

John Wycliffe

Jan Hus

Give me Giordano Bruno, John Wycliff and Jan Hus.  These are the people I felt close to as I grew up.

Mohammed Bouazizi

Of course I am reminded of Mohammed Bouazizi, the Tunisian street vendor who burnt himself to death in Tunisia on the 4th January 2011.

So I love Brecht’s tender admonition and I can see that sticking up for yourself is not necessarily the contrary of sticking up for other people.  But I also know that fear is the great enemy of change.  Maybe deep down the real vision of the alternative economy connects with a deep belief about oneself.  It was also interesting to hear Michael Alpert encourage the audience not to be swayed by charisma.  He invited them not to believe what he was saying, not to be impressed by the way he was saying it.

He was making a plea for participation.