Jenin and the Theater

28 03 2009


Animal Farm plays in Jenin

Animal Farm plays in Jenin - BBC

I realize that I’ve written quite a few posts about the arts lately, focusing a little less on politics. But there has been a wave of news about art-related events and I get a little too excited when I hear about a photography project, or a music performance, or this time, a play. So get excited with me!

The Freedom Theatre in Jenin, West Bank, opened its doors this week to a new student version of Goerge Orwell’s novel, Animal Farm. The BBC reported this, the AP reviewed it. Many people seem to be hyped up about it.

Here’s why.

Animal Farm was first published in 1945 as a satire against Russia’s Stalin era. In the story, animals rebel against the farm owner, kicking him out eventually and setting up a community where everyone has equal rights. Later, their utopia collapses due to their own corruption and greed.

In this Palestinian play, the word “intifada” is used for revolution (Arabic for uprising). The play director, Nabil al-Raee, and the theater’s director, Juliano Mer-Khamis, keep the original satirical edge, hinting at the Territories’ own corrupt leadership and the society’s restrictions against freedom of thought.  

“To be free is to be able to criticise,” said Mer-Khamis to the BBC. “To be free is to be able to express yourself freely. To be free is to be free first of all of the chains of tradition, religion, nationalism – in a dark way I mean.”

It is always refreshing to see critics from within the society, not from the outside. Despite threats and a burnt theater door, this play performed safely. The fact that it is getting this much publicity is beyond satisfying.

Again I say, when politics fail, we must pave the way for the arts.

A silly thought crossed my mind, however. I wondered how the Muslim audience received the pig characters of the play, knowing that pigs are considered quite filthy, rather than cute, in Islam. What would you think?



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