Palestinian theatre company to make Birmingham debut

Rep date will be part of first UK tour.

The world-renowned Freedom Theatre, a leading company based in the Jenin Refugee Camp in occupied Palestine, comes to Birmingham Repertory Theatre from 4th-6th June as part of its first ever tour of the UK, with their production The Siege.

Inspired by the true story of a group of Palestinian fighters, The Siege is set April 2002 in Bethlehem. A group of armed men seek sanctuary in the Church of the Nativity, one of the world’s holiest sites, as the Israeli army closes in. Along with the fighters are some 200 priests, nuns and civilians. The siege lasts for 39 days, paralysing the centre of Bethlehem. While the world is watching, the fighters are faced with the question of whether to struggle to the end or to surrender. No matter what they choose, they will have to leave their families and their homeland behind forever.

The Siege has been developed and devised by The Freedom Theatre actors, a unique ensemble who use culture as a form of resistance and who have grown up during the Second Intifada and lived under occupation their whole lives. It is directed by Palestinian theatre director, Nabil Al-Raee (Artistic Director for The Freedom Theatre) and Zoe Lafferty, a British theatre director (Associate Director for The Freedom Theatre). They previously collaborated on Shok Man?, a critically acclaimed production that opened in Jenin and went on to tour to Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria.

The Freedom Theatre is one of Palestine’s leading cultural centres, and was the first professional theatre school in the West Bank. Their acclaimed productions tour nationally and internationally and together they have created numerous books, photography exhibitions and short films. It has been described as one of the world’s most revolutionary artistic platforms, with cultural resistance at the core of all its work.

The Freedom Theatre uses arts as a catalyst for social change and aims to break the cultural isolation that separates Jenin from the wider Palestinian and global communities. Previous productions include: Suicide Note From Palestine which will have a two-week residency at the New York Public Theatre in September 2015, The Island which recently toured to the International Theatre Festival of Kerala, India; and Arabic productions of The Caretaker, Animal Farm and Alice In Wonderland among others.

The UK tour of The Siege is organised by The Freedom Theatre UK Friends, a network of over 300 people in Britain who are engaged in the theatre’s activities and is supported by the EU, the British Council, Steps Beyond – European Cultural Foundation, Arts Council England and The Roddick Foundation.

Other supporters include the playwright Howard Brenton who says of the tour: “It is very exciting to welcome the Freedom Theatre’s tour of their new play The Siege to Britain. This is real political theatre, performed out of the both terrible and inspiring experience of a struggle for freedom and justice. They are living proof that telling stories and entertaining audiences are powerful acts of resistance to oppression.

“Do go and see them, they have news for us. This little theatre could change the world.”

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