Sometimes I have stood and clapped a production that has been excellent as I felt the need to be counted with others who had leapt out of their seats. However, it is a rare experience to be in an audience that immediately stands as one whilst applauding rapturously. This is what happened on Saturday 16th May at the Lakeside Theatre on the Essex Univeristy Campus as The Freedom Theatre's production 'The Siege' concluded. And over time, as the impulse that propelled me upwards subsides, the profuse images and moments from that memorable evening remain starkly vivid.
The Freedom Theatre is a company based in the Jenin Refugee Camp in Northern Palestine and 'The Siege' recalls the time when some of the Palestinian resistance sought refuge in the Church of The Nativity in Bethlehem after the Israeli army invasion in 2002. The media reported that these men held nuns and priests hostage, the reality was very different. As it transpires these very same men landed up making a massive sacrifice for their fellow Palestinians, and still do, as they are now nomads in exile.
This production is breathtaking in that it hits home hard, it is brilliantly executed with mix of video footage and with a script delivered only partially in English as subtitled Arabic is the principle vehicle. The dialogue swings rapidly between humour and pathos, hatred and redemption and gently draws you alongside the players. The Church of the Nativity's guide introduces us to the location and his love for the place and it's history enabled us all to robustly respond to his closing 'Amen'!
Do not miss seeing 'The Siege', I met folk who had travelled miles to Colchester to witness it, your remaining opportunities are here:
BAC London 19th - 23rd May (Sold Out)
The Hub, Leeds 26th May
St Mary in the Castle, Hastings 28th May (tickets)
It was most unusual, to say the least. We so seldom agreed on anything. But this time we all felt something sinister was afoot and were of one mind. Of course, we had to go through the ‘right’ channels, Caspar always insisted we must, he’s driven us nuts with his attention to detail all along. Our journey would have taken half the time if he hadn't meticulously checked and double checked everything. But now he has come up trumps, we all agreed, we simply didn't trust Herod and there was no way we would be advising Herod’s henchmen when we found our ultimate destination.
I must mention this incredible star. It was so vivid, so extraordinarily bright and everywhere we went it appeared to be ahead of us. Believe me, Caspar had ensured our ‘forward’ motion had covered all points of the compass and yet this star was always there. I cannot emphasise how bright it was, enough to light our way and yet it also became the source of our biggest falling out. We kept arguing over and over whether it was following us or we were following it. I always thought it led the way, however, being the youngest I wasn’t considered wise yet. I do acknowledge they had a point though; why hadn't Herod’s astronomers spotted it, surely it would have been easy for them to track? Then I received a right telling off when I simply suggested that Herod’s men could have just followed us, seemed obvious to me! I should say that Melchior had been surprisingly discreet. He managed to keep quiet about the star when we were with Herod, despite making a fool of himself rabbiting on about all the evidence we had amassed to plan our expedition which Herod’s legal team then confiscated.
Anyway, we have reached our destination. Actually, the last bit of our epic journey didn’t take long at all, as you can imagine, even Caspar was keen to leave Herod’s palace as soon as we could. And now it was my turn to be proven right. Despite my earlier pleas to not expect too much they were still taken aback. But I knew what living in an occupied territory was like, my suggestions that the special one would reside in modest accommodation had been repeatedly dismissed with generous contempt.
Mr Joseph opened the door of his humble dwelling appearing completely unphased by our substantial entourage. ‘We’ve been expecting you’ was what he said, with a broad smile, welcoming us over the threshold. And Mrs Joseph, Mary, greeted us. She seemed shy, demure and yet serene. Caspar and Melchior pushed their way forward into the living room and missed seeing the energetic toddler behind Mary. He was playing with some expertly carved wooden pieces. Mr Joseph explained his work included creating scale models for approval by the Temple authorities who kept rejecting them because they were ‘such a fussy bunch’. ‘This is my firstborn’, Mr Joseph proudly added, ‘and my boy keeps finding better ways to make these!’. The shekel dropped, ‘the firstborn’, I felt my heart race.
Anyway, Mr Joseph stoops and prompted the child who then followed him to the where Caspar and Melchior, now seated, were looking both bemused and impatient. Mr Joseph then presented the special one. Now it was the the Joseph family’s turn to be bemused by my fellow travellers’ antics! Of course their gifts, Gold and Frankincense, were exquisitely and expensively wrapped and handed over with much bowing and scraping. Mine, well, yes, I was the youngest so I had the ‘awkward’ present. I turned toward the parents and they sensed my discomfort. Mary looked pensive, gently accepting my tiny phial of Myrrh. And as she turned away I heard her whisper, ‘it’s ok, I know, Blessed be the Lord’.