It’s nearly a week after the planned July 30 opening of “The City,” a hip-hop opera being staged at Edinburgh’s annual Festival Fringe by The Victor Jackson Show players from Jerusalem’s Incubator Theater, and the players still don’t have a theater.
The alternative actors were scheduled to perform at the Cow Barn Underbelly in Edinburgh’s Bristo Square. That venue canceled the show after a small group of pro-Palestinian activists picketed the theater, which is in a “very central place,” said Anat Maromi, the theater’s public relations agent in Israel.
Another theater was found for them, said Maromi, but the local police force are being careful about security, and it’s become “very, very complicated,” she said. “It’s a real saga, to our dismay.”
In the meantime, the players performed parts of their show for free in the Meadows park of Edinburgh, for a group of about 20 people.
“Seeing as we still don’t have an auditorium, we put on a show of parts of ‘The City’ in a public park,” wrote the players on their Facebook page. “It’s not Gan Sacher, but it’s something,” they wrote, referring to one of Jerusalem’s largest parks.
The saga over the staging of the play began before the Israeli players had even arrived in Edinburgh. A week earlier, a group of well-known Scottish cultural figures called for a boycott of “The City,” asking the venue’s owners to reconsider staging the performance because it is partially funded by the Israeli Ministry of Culture.
Since then, other cultural figures, including Scotland’s Culture Secretary Fiona Hyslop and The Scotsman newspaper columnist Joyce McMillan, have said that the cultural boycott compromises the Festival’s reputation for championing freedom of speech.
The performers commented on a Facebook thread that their outdoor performance was shortened due to rain, and they “received extensive press coverage.”
“There’s a chance we’ll do it again if they continue to postpone our show,” wrote the players on Facebook.
In the meantime, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev canceled the performances of its student dance company that were scheduled for August 9-12 at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe.
The university said the decision was made in light of the anti-Israel protesters demonstrating against the conflict in Gaza, and at the urging of the venue where the dance performances were set to take place.
The 12-member dance company was to perform the piece “La Karina” by Dedi Alofer.
“It is a shame that this is the state of affairs, where artistic freedom of expression is being sorely tested,” said BGU President Professor Rivka Carmi. “The company has no connection to politics, but everything has become highly politicized. Considering the quality of the company, its withdrawal from the festival is a loss to all art lovers and we are dismayed at the necessity.”
The Edinburgh Festival Fringe runs through August 25.