Is anyone else struggling to find the right work/genocide balance? Every day it feels a little more impossible to go to work and live life knowing that miles away people are suffering in the most awful ways. However, in my ‘real’ life, I feel completely alone in this sentiment, life goes on, spreadsheets get filled, friends have plans and in our context, the shows go on.
Because, unlike the crisis in Ukraine and the climate emergency, the current genocide in Palestine has not managed to diffuse into the world of theatre.
Last March, I had the privilege to attend a star-studded comedy show called ‘Stand Up for Ukraine’, I saw many London theatres posting about the conflict, sending donations and supporting a boycott of Russia. I felt the world of arts rally behind Ukraine and their right to claim their land. What is different in this case? Do Palestinians not deserve the same rights? Does the cry of the Palestinian people not deserve to be heard?
In the last few weeks, my need for a place to put my grief, for a place of shared sentiment has taken me away from my usual safe space of the theatre and towards spaces of protest instead. In these marches and rallies, I found what I was looking for and, surprisingly, I found theatre too. As Indian Activist and Writer Arundhathi Roy says: ‘Non-violence is a piece of theatre. You need an audience.’ I found these protests are a hotbed of artistic expression, they only function once they are seen and heard by those we march for and those we march against, so my fellow protestors bring their best show.
However, this isn’t exhibitionism for exhibitionism’s sake, the performances I see along the march route are a vehicle for our grief and it is performed to one main audience; the government. Through making this noise we dare the government to make a move, we shame them for their machiavellian words and deeds, and we tell them we will never forget.
I have had the privilege to witness drum circles, a procession of ‘dead bodies’, speeches, chanting and music. I have seen sets in the form of placards, and actors in the shape of families, friends and strangers. My days have been filled with a never-ending story and I have never felt closer to those who suffer in Palestine. I leave every protest feeling changed, the way you do after you see an incredible show.
Growing up in the UK, theatre has always been my safe space, but it’s only today that I see how little it cares for the world beyond the West.
Do not let this be our legacy. If you are a Western theatre maker, actor or facilitator I urge you to join in. Side eYe Productions brings us a message from Palestine: ‘Ashtar Theatre has launched an urgent request to theatre makers around the world to publicly read or perform The Gaza Monologues on November 29th 2023’. Learn more about it here and take a stand for solidarity, let protest seep into your lives, let us not ignore this massacre for fear of comfort.
Protest is theatre and theatre is protest, it has always been this way.