Palestine’s Freedom Theatre Graduation Production

by ray goodlass

I’m in Jenin now (northern Palestine) after a stress free trip using shared taxis from Jerusalem via Ramallah, the de-facto capital of Palestinian. The Freedom Ride starts tomorrow, but I’m having an early taste as we all got together this afternoon at the Freedom Theatre to see their Graduation Show, which was very impressive.

The four essentially one man pieces were all devised, directed, designed and staged by the students. I was struck by their depth, which was either personal or interpersonal, the staging, which was very physical, earthy and messy (lots of water, soil, and smoke) and the acting, which was direct and elemental. I’m glad I was able to get here in time to see it.

It is good to meet up with the other Freedom Ride participants and though I am by nature a reserved person I am very much enjoying the contact with like minded souls.

It is also good to see more of Jenin. Last time I was here, on my earlier trip to Palestine, it was a very fleeting visit of only two hours, and it was early Friday morning, so their wasn’t much action. Today is very different, it is a busy place and a hive of activity. I think it is a productive farming area, and the landscape is certainly different from the Ramallah, Jerusalem and Bethlehem area, as it is much flatter and greener. I do understand though that the Wall has created huge problems for the farmers, as it has cut of many from their land.

The Freedom Theatre is in the Jenin Refugee Camp, and as with most of them one of its most distressing features is its solidly built up nature, which creates a very dispiriting sense of permanence. However, what, from my experience, is unique about it is how wide and straight its streets are. The answer as to why they are like this is also dispiriting, because they were made by Israeli tanks as they invaded the camp during the Second Intifada and flattened much of the place.

And talking about the wider political picture, what I’ve picked up from the local media (Haaretz newspaper. New York Times and Aljazeera TV news) is that the peace process isn’t going very well and the Americans may give in to Israeli pressure and settle for less for the Palestinians. Kerry and Obama aren’t delivering for Palestine, in other words. I hope its not that bad, but the news isn’t encouraging.

But to end on a happier note, as we walked back to the Jenin Cinema Guest House we were greeted with smiles and hellos not just by the children, but by adults as well. Perhaps they are used to visitors like us, but nonetheless, it was a good experience