In the spring of 2015 The Freedom Theatre will premiere a brand new production across the West Bank and then embark on its first ever tour of Britain and Ireland. The Siege is inspired by the real stories of a group of fighters who during the height of the second Intifada took refuge in the Church of the Nativity. The play uses both theatre and visual arts to portray an event that with time has taken on almost mythical proportions.
May 2002. Spring in Bethlehem. A group of armed men seek sanctuary in one of the world’s holiest sites as the Israeli army closes in with helicopters, tanks and snipers. Along with the fighters are some 200 priests, nuns and civilians. The siege lasts for 39 days, paralyzing the center of Bethlehem and keeping tens of thousands under curfew. Inside the Church of Nativity the besieged are hungry and weakening. The smell of unwashed bodies and broken lavatories is mixed with the stench from the suppurating wounds of the injured. Two dead bodies are decomposing in a cave below the church. 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.
While some might call the siege a desecration of a holy place, others view it as a continuation of the church’s ancient tradition of offering sanctuary to those who ask for protection. The production raises important questions about strategies of resistance against military might and gives a unique insight into the Palestinian armed resistance and the struggle for freedom.
The Siege will be directed by Palestinian theatre director Nabil Al-Raee and British theatre director Zoe Lafferty, who
previously collaborated on Sho Kman?, a critically acclaimed production that opened in Jenin and went on to tour to Germany, France, Switzerland and Austria. The piece will be 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.
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