Emma Thompson

The British Globe To Globe festival is staging 37 plays by Shakespeare performed in various languages at the Globe Theater. They will celebrate productions from Turkey, Ramallah, Iran, and China. (Thank god those countries are free of censorship and hate.) Habima, the national theatre company of Israel, will perform the Merchant of Venice in Hebrew.

Sadly, though, Emma Thompson, Mark Rylance (Jerusalem), Mike Leigh, David Aukin, Jonathan Miller, Miriam Margolyes, David Calder, Trevor Griffiths and several other British theatre folk have added their names to a list that asks the Globe Theatre to revoke its invitation to Habima.

The signatories wrote that while they have no problem hearing a Shakespeare play in the Hebrew language, they do not want an Israeli national company to perform since they believe the Israeli state violates human rights and supports the “illegal colonization of occupied land.”

David Calder, whose roles include Shylock with the Royal Shakespeare Company, said that Habima “placed itself outside the general case of ‘bridge-making culture’ by being prepared to play before a segregated audience of illegal settlers in a theatre from which Palestinians themselves are barred.” Calder said that leading Israeli company Habima are part of “a cultural fig leaf” for Israel’s daily brutality.

Actually, here is the text of their letter they sent to the Guardian:

The full text of the letter follows:

We notice with dismay and regret that Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre in London has invited Israel’s National Theatre, Habima, to perform The Merchant of Venice in its Globe to Globe festival this coming May.

The general manager of Habima has declared the invitation ‘an honourable accomplishment for the State of Israel’ (i). But Habima has a shameful record of involvement with illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestinian Territory.

Last year, two large Israeli settlements established ‘halls of culture’ and asked Israeli theatre groups to perform there. A number of Israeli theatre professionals – actors, stage directors, playwrights – declared (ii) they would not take part.

Habima however accepted the invitation with alacrity, and promised the Israeli Minister of Culture that it would ‘deal with any problems hindering such performances’. By inviting Habima, Shakespeare’s Globe is undermining the conscientious Israeli actors and playwrights who have refused to break international law.

The Globe says it wants to ‘include’ the Hebrew language in its festival – we have no problem with that. ‘Inclusiveness’ is a core value of arts policy in Britain, and we support it. But by inviting Habima, the Globe is associating itself with policies of exclusion practised by the Israeli state and endorsed by its national theatre company. We ask the Globe to withdraw the invitation so the festival is not complicit with human rights violations and the illegal colonisation of occupied land.

Yours sincerely,

David Calder, actor
Caryl Churchill, playwright
Trevor Griffiths, playwright
Mike Leigh, filmmaker, dramatist
Roger Lloyd Pack, actor
Cherie Lunghi, actor
Miriam Margolyes OBE, actor
Kika Markham, actor
Jonathan Miller, director, author and broadcaster
Mark Rylance, actor
Emma Thompson, actor, screenwriter
Harriet Walter DBE, actor
Richard Wilson, actor, director
David Aukin, producer
Poppy Burton-Morgan, artistic director, Metta Theatre
Leo Butler, playwright
Niall Buggy, actor
Jonathan Chadwick, director
Michael Darlow, writer, director
Annie Firbank, actor
Paul Freeman, actor
Matyelok Gibbs, actor
Tony Graham, director
John Graham Davies, actor, writer
Janet Henfrey, actor
James Ivens, artistic director, Flood Theatre
Andrew Jarvis, actor, director, teacher
Neville Jason, actor
Ursula Jones, actor
Professor Adah Kay, academic, playwright
Sonja Linden, playwright, iceandfire theatre
Frances Rifkin, director
Alexei Sayle, comedian, writer
Farhana Sheikh, writer
Andy de la Tour, actor, director
Hilary Westlake, director
Susan Wooldridge, actor, writer

About the author



  • “They will celebrate productions from Turkey, Ramallah, Iran, and China.”

    That is the gist of this story and that is the full implication of BDS. It is a movement that intends to distract from the truly vile things that happen in numerous countries around the world while targeting the only Jewish state. It is a political embodiment of antisemitism.

    Consider that as they do this and as the UNHRC is about to launch an investigation of “settlements,” the government bombings of civilian areas in Syria have proceeded apace and in the past year over 30 Tibetan monks have self-immolated to death to protest China’s occupation of Tibet. http://www.usatoday.com/news/world/story/2012-04-02/tibet-immolations/53952746/1. Turkey, of course, is occupying part of Cyprus and repressing Kurds. I can’t think of anything Iran might be doing wrong. Oh wait, what I just did is called pinkwashing. Real pinkwashing.

  • The legal argument of the letter as well as the moral inconsistency of it is quite ludicrous. I’d also note that one of the signatories is Caryl Churchill, whose play “Seven Jewish Children” is almost entirely made up of negative stereotypes of Jews in general and Israelis in particular.

    I actually researched this story for a piece that I wrote and found out that the great irony is that these 37 notables submitted their letter months after Shakespeare’s Globe had already refused an earlier call to boycott Habima.


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