Intersectionality and HERE THERE EVERYWHERE: Gaza-London. What Next?

‘Shukran! So great to feel connected to Gaza. Peace through art. Keep going. Keep spreading peace and love.’ Comment by participant at the HERE THERE EVERYWHERE events

From 7th -11th November 2017 Az Theatre curated an exhibition and ran a series of events at P21 Gallery in London. The occasion was the presentation by our partners, Theatre for Everybody in Gaza, of their stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War & Peace.  The exhibition brought together work by Tanya Habjouqa (photographer), Taysir Batniji (Video artist), Hazem Harb (performance video artist), Palestine History Tapestry Project, Laila Kassab (painter) and the Palestine Regeneration Team.  The events video-linked publics and experts in London with: the ‘War & Peace’ company in Gaza; with contributors to the book, Gaza as Metaphor; with mothers in Gaza attending a workshop organised by the Maan Development Agency; with school teachers (including the National President and members of the executive of the National Union of Teachers section of the National Education Union); with women activists from Gaza and from Jazir province in the autonomous Democratic Federation of Northern Syria (aka Rojava); with human rights activists and specialists in the study of genocide; with filmmakers who worked on a film about the first intifada (1987-1990) in Gaza; with students of Shakespeare; with the filmmaker of Ambulance, a film about paramedics in the 2014 Gaza war, with paramedics, psychotherapists and mental health specialists, public health experts, environmentalists and poets.

We decided to run such an extensive programme of work in order to help break down barriers between people working in different fields and to offer to other constituencies the kind of immediate working contact that Az Theatre has developed with Theatre for Everybody during our Gaza Drama Long Term project.  This is a ten-year (2009-2019) partnership aimed at undermining the blockade of Gaza through friendship, solidarity and creativity.  This decision was inspired and furthered by the idea of intersectionality.

I would like to make clearer why this idea is important to me.  As I do so I have to admit that I am not knowledgeable about, or well-read in, black feminist thinking nor in critical race theory from which this idea developed.  That’s not to say that I will never be but I don’t want to wait until I’m adept before talking about how this idea has struck me.  I first came across it in Angela Y Davis’ book Freedom is a Constant Struggle.  In this book Angela Y Davis talks about how limiting it is to describe struggles like that of the Palestinian people for justice, or that of indigenous people to protect their land against incursions by multinational oil corporations, or that of black people in many parts of the world against police and judicial violence, as being disconnected from each other.  Intersectionality insists on the specifics of a given movement and opens up that which links it to other movements.  For example, in a leaked document from a conference organised by an Israeli government-related think-tank it is clear that this ability to connect the Palestinian cause with other social movements was a matter of considerable concern for those committed to sustaining the Zionist project.  The report from the conference in April 2017 specifically identifies ‘intersectionality’ as a threat and described it as a major factor in the failure of the Israeli state to counter the BDS movement. The success of the Palestinian solidarity movement was to a major extent attributed to the fact that this struggle had been adopted as ‘symbolic’ in the struggle of many groups and movements for justice and freedom.

Being able to see how the issue of Palestinian freedom relates to a widespread series of interconnected concerns, including ‘humanitarianism’ and the constitution of the ‘international community’, is realistic from the point of view of current political imagination.  Giving full weight to the actuality and detail of what Palestinians are engaged with, whether they are in Gaza, in the West Bank, in Israel, in Jordan, in Lebanon and in the other countries of the world to which they have been dispersed, is completely in tune with seeing the impossibility of considering their situation in isolation.  Of course their situation is special but it becomes indescribable if similarities, resonances and connections are pushed out of the picture.  Of course this is true of many, if not all, of the issues that connect with that of the Palestinians. This is more than saying that they are not alone from the point of view of active solidarity and there is no need to insist – although this may a certain times be useful – that this unity is built on the identification of a common enemy, be it ‘neo-liberalism’ or ‘corporate capitalism’ or ‘neo-imperialism’.

Our events in November were not specifically designed to address questions at this level of generality but they offered an invitation to shift the narrative, to alter the field of play.  By addressing people here in London and in Gaza as artists, teachers, parents, environmentalists, filmmakers, activists, paramedics, public health experts, Shakespeare students, poets, human rights activists, architects we were constructing an alternative conception to that which would describe people only as Palestinians (or as English or white or black) therefore seeming to impose identity as a kind of fate presenting people as passive victims.  Intersectionality offers us the opportunity of seeing the connection between different movements and struggles as well as seeing the complexity of how we are as human beings.  It is the dynamic interaction between the connectivity linking issues and movements and the vision of human beings as relational creatures, making ourselves and each other through a multiplicity of relationships, encounters, groups and institutions, that makes intersectionality so welcome.  I am grateful for this idea that can clarify and advance specificity and difference while holding and embracing connection and generality.

For me there are two uses of ‘intersectionality’. One is to gain insight, from its connective capability, into political and social movement(s).  The other is to gain insight, from its cohesive capability, into more fully imagining human beings.  Of course even more intriguing is what might be the connection between these capabilities.

The general political discourse of our society is almost hopelessly limited to relating the worth of a policy to its immediate benefits for a given sector or group of people.  The reduction of politics to a narrow idea of economics is a signature of neo-liberalism.  This ideology also articulates a rigidity in the relationship between the governors and the governed.  At the same time it obscures the interconnections between ‘home’ policy and ‘foreign’ policy.  For example, let’s imagine that a government is elected whose main election promise is to restructure the relationship of the UK to Israel/Palestine.  The new policy is designed to bring pressure on Israel to conform with international law and the United Nations resolutions relating to its activities.  The UK would commit itself to impose sanctions unilaterally and to open channels of support and communication with the worldwide Palestinian community on the basis of the right of return.  The government would encourage civil society solidarity contacts with all constituencies and sectors of Palestinian and Israeli society that were active in pressurising the Israeli state to conform with international law, ending the occupation of territories outside the internationally agreed partition borders of 1948.  Although the demands behind this policy are perfectly reasonable it is clear that such a policy initiative in the present circumstances is impossible.  A lot of other factors in the circumstances would have to change and, unlike, say, re-nationalisation of the railways or de-privatisation and increased public finance for the health service, which appear to be policy options that are programmatically unlinked, a change in policy towards Palestine/Israel appears unlikely unless there are other consequential changes such as decoupling the UK from US Middle East regional strategies, re-organising military and ‘security’ co-operation with ‘traditional’ allies in the EU/NATO, distancing the UK from the ‘axis of evil’ neo-conservative strategic agenda of the US.  A change in policy towards Palestine/Israel would alter the conversation between the UK, Russia and China.

However such a change would have to have engaged with popular opinion in the UK.  How could a popular consensus for such a change come about without it being connected to policy changes relating to issues closer to home?  Whereas the issue of Palestine/Israel may not be a lynchpin of wider policy change it is related to questions of racism, democracy, environmental sustainability, economic development and growth, freedom of movement, human rights and social justice. Given a little thought it is clear that this policy would have to be a part of a wide-ranging alteration that would break the UK’s relationship to the neoliberal consensus of the ‘international community’.  The risk would be, unless a critical number of other nation-states also changed their policy the UK would be isolated and there may be some kind of speculative attacks on the currency, the imposition of sanctions and attempts through the international security and intelligence ‘community’ to undermine the UK government.

My argument is that this change would only be fully possible if there was something amounting to a paradigm shift in ‘home’ and ‘foreign’ policy.  However I’m not saying that activism on the Palestine/Israel issue should be suspended until all the necessary co-ordinates are in place for overall political change.  I am simply pursuing the political wisdom enunciated by Nelson Mandela’s insight that: “We know too well that our freedom is incomplete without the freedom of the Palestinians” .  I am searching out the definition of the connection of our freedom with that of the Palestinians. Neither is it necessary to say that that the Palestinians’ struggle for justice is the unique emblem of the struggle for human freedom nor is it true to say that the oppressor, in all instances, is the same, as if there is some central source of domination that, if discovered and expunged, will bring love, joy and peace to the Earth.

It is not always wise to focus too strongly on what might appear to be a common enemy.  However, there remains the question of whether ideologies, in order to be cohesive, have common underlying thematics that can link, though affinity and correspondence, a multiplicity of human activities, attitudes, mentalities and beliefs.  Without believing that systems of belief move in perfectly-formed phalanxes it is possible to see how ideas and institutions have coherent internal rhymes and external structural symmetries.  I have generally expressed this unifying coherence by referring to ‘an image of the human’.  This basic idea of humanity is problematic because it can give the illusion of an absolute essence, an irreducible quality that announces itself as ‘the human’.  These views of the human can be and must be subjective, reflexive and circumscribed.  For example, definitions or even perceptions of ‘the human’ can be subtended by ‘the subhuman’ or ‘the superhuman’.  It is clearly no good appealing to the delusions of common sense in this instance.  There may be as many definitions of ‘the human’ as there are human beings. Let’s say that an historically and culturally circumscribed ideology is held together by ‘an image of the human’ and one of the ways in which they operate is by providing representations (attitudes, beliefs and events) through which people can recognise themselves, and can even engender a sense of belonging. The most obvious example of this is homo economicus, the ‘image of the human’ that lies at the core of neoliberalism, in other words, the notion that human beings are rational, self-interested, utility-seeking entities.  Of course we know that the operationalisation of this idea drives people to exhibit the features that affirm and continue to sustain the system and that this happens, like in any social system, by the internalisation or ‘living through’ of those values.  This I believe brings us close to understanding the connection between the two aspects of intersectionality that I referred to.

What is it that makes a human being see in another’s oppression the lineaments of their own?  This is the sinew and lifeblood of solidarity between people and it is a deep recognition that so often moves people into action for change, not because of what is happening to them but because of what is happening to somebody else.  Political and social institutions are the crystallisations of these urges in people.  What seems to happen is that institutions and social structures are constantly refreshed and re-enforced but also can become bereft of credibility and no longer accord with how people see themselves, not only individually but collectively.  Of course in periods of change there are defining issues which express a much more general movement and it seems unlikely that the issue of Palestine/Israel will assume this crucial defining role in any social movement in the UK.  However, this idea shouldn’t be discounted.  Things are strange.

For example, the announcement by Donald Trump that the US will recognise Jerusalem as the capital of Israel seems at first sight like a ghastly imposition of raw power and a major setback for the cause of peace and justice. I don’t welcome it. But since Trump is generally associated with white supremacist racist views and some of his supporters have expressed anti-jewish views and because the ideological base from which he has emerged is a ruling establishment that have historically united a discrimination against jews with a discrimination against black people, his ‘offer’ to the Israelis may even to them seem like a poisoned chalice. Trump is uniting the opposition against him.  Of course this is dangerous because it also means that his supporters become cornered, their animus intensifies, their fear of loss increases and the corner they are in looks similar to the corner that the US is knocking itself into ‘on the world stage’.

At times it feels as if we are living through an epic the subject of which is the passing away of a whole way of life or system of human organisation.  This story often reminds me of Shakespeare’s Richard III.  This play depicts a figure who is at the threshold of the inauguration of the Tudor dynasty, the final unification of the English ‘kingdom’ after the civil wars of the preceding period, the wars that pitched different factions of the landowning classes with their warlord leaders against each other in the struggle for dominance.  Since Shakespeare was concerned with a celebration of the Tudor regime which was founded through the victory in battle by the grandfather (Henry VII) of the monarch that dominated his times (Elizabeth I) his depiction of the key figure (Richard III) of the old regime was like devil who through his outrageous and ostentatious wickedness eventually united all against him so that, with his destruction, all the evil that he had gathered into himself was also destroyed.  The movement of the play based on a kind of primitive ritual drama of exorcism has a physiological metaphor at its centre and it is as if by Richard’s death on the battlefield of Bosworth Field (deserted even by his horse, his own mother turned against him halfway through the play) a poisonous boil is lanced and the body politic is cured. Richard flagrantly embodies and personifies all that was wrong, corrupt, dishonest, venal and murderous in the old regime and by his removal a political and social rebirth could take place.

If only political movement were as simple and enjoyable as this brilliant play. Our social and political history has been haunted by the desire for this simple drama, wherein the execution of the king (whether in public or behind closed doors) delivers renewal.  It has proven to be an illusion and this illusion has hidden the emergence of real problems. It has usually turned out that the institutional mold far outlives the individuals that enact them. I say this as somebody that would like to see the abolition of the monarchy.  Anyway, the point I’m making is that the arrival of leaders like Trump (Italy, being a more advanced society, came up with Berlusconi some time ago) is a sign of the desperation of the ruling elites of a political order that is on its last legs.  Trump appears so like the paper tiger that Mao Zedong described as personifying imperialism. That his nemesis might be the regime that Mao played such a key part in creating may haunt his dreams, if he has the imaginative capacity to dream clearly.

Unity will not come solely from opposition to Trump.  All I am pointing out is how policies on issues that are not obviously central to a given constituency can have symbolic importance and can act as a conduit connecting up the relationship between ideologies and strategic outcomes.  I believe intersectionality gives a powerful optic into this connectivity and sheds light on the nature of political regimes.  But also it offers us a pluralistic way of looking at ourselves and our fellow human beings, not as singular predictable representative entities but as complex beings intersected, that is to say made, by different and various interactions.  This is what makes it possible for me to say at certain moments that I am a Viking but also at another to say I am a Palestinian (certainly no less credible than when John Kennedy told the crowds ‘Ich bin ein Berliner’).

I am happy that AzTheatre organised the HERE THERE EVERYWHERE events at P21 Gallery.  Working with visual arts opened up a dimension in our work that relates to imagining what can be brought together in a creative space.  The Gallery is keen to further the work we started.  The next phase of the Gaza Drama Long Term project has as yet to be decided upon.  The performances of War & Peace in Gaza that have been received with such enthusiasm will be coming to an end soon.  We are all thinking about what to do next.

 

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.