Cross posted by the indispensable Richard Millett
I really enjoyed last night’s performance of Habima’s The Merchant of Venice at The Globe on the south bank of the River Thames on a beautiful summer evening in London.
The cast received a prolonged standing ovation at the end (see above). The Globe was the perfect setting with its open roof allowing you to peer into the ever darkening sky as the constant movement of small planes readied you for the inevitable interruptions.
My main concerns were whether I would follow a play in Hebrew and whether the interruptions would ruin the experience, but two small screens kept us nicely updated in English and The Globe’s security knew when to act and when not to.
Security removed protesters swiftly so limiting the disruption but they allowed a very weird protest, where six protesters stood silently on the first balcony for virtually the entire first half with their lips taped up, to proceed.
The performance itself brought to the fore the comedy of The Merchant of Venice with a humourous gondola impression each time the action transferred to Venice, reminiscent of a sideways Moonwalk.
Seeing Shylock dispossessed of everything when Antonio’s defence lawyer finds a loophole in his contract with Shylock and watching Shylock forced to convert to Christianity to escape going to prison himself was maybe a Shakespearian premonition of the treatment in store for the Jews of Europe and Arab countries in the centuries to come.
In all there were some 20 protesters. I recognised two of them:
Peter Scott recently tried to have me arrested and charged with harassment for doing nothing more than photographing him for my blog holding a Palestinian flag at an anti-Israel protest. Last night he donned a smart Panama hat. When I noticed him during the interval I pointed him out to security who, again, did nothing.
I went out to get a drink but when I came back two friends said that a man wearing a Panama had just been removed by security after he had approached them to discuss the disturbances. As they were talking to him they noticed he was wearing an electronic recording device on his lapel. Here is Scott during the interval:
I saw the following protester going into The Globe last night and when I called his name he looked round. I then called security but he made haste away from me until he was eventually caught by security and, out of breathe and shaking, gave a butter-wouldn’t-melt-in-my-mouth look.
I felt traumatised that I might have unjustly accused an innocent person and ruined his evening, but just before the interval he did unfurl a banner and was removed by security:
Meanwhile, the foyer was packed with police dealing with the protesters. In the top left corner here you can spot ubiquitous anti-Zionist activist Tony Greenstein:
Outside The Globe the Zionist Federation and Stand With Us had arranged a pro-Israel protest. There was also a pen for Palestine Solidarity Campaign activists. One PSC man had donned a mask with a big nose, but swore it wasn’t an anti-Semitic gesture.
I asked some of the PSC lot whether they saw the recent production of Richard II by the Palestinian theatre company also at The Globe. They said they didn’t as it was a matinée and they had work commitments. They must have conveniently failed to spot the Saturday performance at 7.30pm then; proof, if ever it was needed, that PSC activists don’t give a damn about the Palestinians.
Habima is expecting another packed house tonight and many thanks should be paid to The Globe, its security and the police for allowing the show to go on despite the efforts of those with ignorant views.
Meanwhile, the London Evening Standard described last night’s performance by Habima as “a tricky evening triumphantly negotiated” and The Times said it was “an evening to remember for reasons of art as well as politics”.
Photos from outside The Globe last night:
- Israelis defy Shakespeare festival boycotters (thejc.com)