A groundbreaking international collaboration between Gaza’s Theatre for Everybody and London’s Az Theatre, which includes live links between the two theater companies, will see its first public showing in London on 14 September.
The project, which has already seen a year of creative work in Gaza, aims to “create a unique Arabic stage adaptation of Tolstoy’s War and Peace.” The launch, which takes place at the Rich Mix multicultural arts space in East London, will also include specially-commissioned new works by British- and Iraqi-origin playwrights Haifa Zangana, Caryl Churchill and Hassan Abdulrazzak, as well as music and an exhibition of Palestinian art from Gaza curated by Arts Canteen.
The event will also feature a live link to the “work-in-progress” in Gaza. This part of the program has been threatened by the ongoing attacks on Gaza by the Israeli military, which led Theatre for Everybody’s Hossam Madhoun, writing on 20 August, to fear that: “Yesterday we were almost sure that war ended, at the last hour everything collapsed, war continues!”
However, with the partial downturn in the Israeli raids and an ongoing ceasefire agreed on 26 August, it is hoped that the link will go ahead. Madhoun has stated that: “I believe in our work on War and Peace more now than at any time before.”
Madhoun and Theatre for Everybody’s painful journal through the July-August onslaught, which left more than 2,000 Palestinians dead, can be traced through a series of moving blog posts on the Az Theatre website.
The adaptation of Tolstoy’s vast novel of conflict and its impact on individual people and their lives and loves in war-torn Russia is Az Theatre’s second major collaboration with Theatre for Everybody, as part of a ten-year partnership between 2009 and 2019 entitled Gaza Drama Long Term Project.
The project is part of Az Theatre’s wider program of work on themes of social justice and conflict, which has seen them collaborate with theaters and communities as far apart as the East End of London and Kashmir, and with Palestinian communities in Gaza’s Beach Camp and in refugee camps in Lebanon. The first play to be staged in Palestine as part of the Gaza Drama project was a production based on Arrabal’s Guernica, entitled The Tree.
The choices of play have been informed, according to an article by prize-winning veteran theater director and Az Theatre artistic director Jonathan Chadwick, by the project’s two key questions: “What is the use of theatre?” and “What is the impact on future generations of organized violence?”
Chadwick has commented that “We have been working on this project with our colleagues in Gaza for over a year and we have a wonderful Arabic text as the basis for the work.”
A press release from the company elaborated further, saying that “The companies in Gaza and London believe the epic framework of Tolstoy’s great romantic, philosophical novel can open up contemporary and historic events and shed new light on the nature of conflict, individual destiny and what peace can be.”