Don’t swal­low Globe arty jokes

The Jewish Chronicle - - Comment - Ge­of­frey Al­der­man

WHAT IS THE con­nec­tion be­tween the Ox­ford and Cam­bridge Boat Race, the BBC Proms and the Globe Theatre? I know that they are all in London, but the as­so­ci­a­tion I have in mind is a lit­tle more sub­tle than that.

Next month, Is­rael’s Habima theatre com­pany will, by in­vi­ta­tion from the Globe Theatre Trust, be giv­ing at the Globe two per­for­mances in He­brew of The Mer­chant of Venice. On March 29, the Guardian pub­lished a let­ter signed by 37 ac­tors and di­rec­tors call­ing for the in­vi­ta­tion to be with­drawn.

Not to be out­done, some nar­cis­sis­tic po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists equally ill-dis­posed to­wards Habima have given no­tice — am­ple no­tice, I might add — of their in­ten­tion not merely to at­tend these per­for­mances but to dis­rupt the pro­ceed­ings, their ex­cuse be­ing that Habima has some­how iden­ti­fied it­self with Is­raeli gov­ern­ment pol­icy in the West Bank by agree­ing to per­form there.

I’m not con­cerned here with the ar­gu­ments used ei­ther by these peo­ple, which have been ad­mirably de­mol­ished by other thes­pi­ans (both in the JC and the Guardian), though I should per­haps say that my at­tempt to con­tact one of the 37 — the ac­tor Richard Wil­son — was par­ried by his agent, who wrote to say that be­cause of his “hec­tic film­ing sched­ule” Richard sim­ply didn’t have the time to talk to me, though he was ap­par­ently grate­ful that I’d thought of him. My sub­se­quent in­quiry as to whether I might nonethe­less as­sume that Mr Wil­son “would dis­so­ci­ate him­self from and con­demn any at­tempt to dis­rupt the Habima per­for­mance at the Globe” has — omi­nously, I fear — re­mained unan­swered.

What con­cerns me is that it’s a safe bet that on May 28 or 29 a con­certed at­tempt will be made to dis­rupt Habima’s per­for­mance. And that this dis­rup­tion will be car­ried out by an al­liance of mal­con­tents who have al­most cer­tainly cal­cu­lated that no sanc­tion of any kind will be ap­plied to them, and that, there­fore, they will be able to go about their dis­rup­tive work with to­tal im­punity.

Why do I say this and why do they know it? Af­ter all, when the Ox­ford and Cam­bridge boat race was dis­rupted by Tren­ton Old­field, who de­lib­er­ately swam into the Thames for this pur­pose, the po­lice speed­ily fished him out and charged him un­der the Public Or­der Act. It seems that Old­field, far from fear­ing pros­e­cu­tion, ac­tu­ally wel­comes the pub­lic­ity it lends to his cru­sade against what he terms “elitism”, and that the prospect of a crim­i­nal record is mu­sic to his ears. “If it’s jail time,” he boasted, “so be it.”

My point is that he was ap­pre­hended, pros­e­cuted, and will, if found guilty at Isle­worth Crown Court on May 23, have to live with a crim­i­nal record. The ladies and gen­tle­men of the Habima dis­rupt­ing troupe may not face this prospect with such equa­nim­ity. But they have prob­a­bly also cal­cu­lated that the like­li­hood of pros­e­cu­tion is very slim.

Old­field’s pros­e­cu­tion falls un­der the Public Or­der Act be­cause his al­leged of­fence was per­pe­trated in a public place. The Globe theatre is not re­garded as a public place, nor is the Royal Al­bert Hall. On Septem­ber 1, a group of nar­cis­sis­tic po­lit­i­cal ac­tivists — among them per­sons who have also promised to dis­rupt Habima — vo­cally interrupted a per­for­mance by the Is­rael Phil­har­monic Or­ches­tra.

Though es­corted from the hall, they were never pros­e­cuted, be­cause this would have re­quired the im­pri­matur of the Al­bert Hall’s trus­tees, which was never forth­com­ing. On that oc­ca­sion, my cu­rios­ity got the bet­ter of me. I plucked up the courage to raise the mat­ter with one of these trus­tees, the Jewish phi­lan­thropist Elie Dan­goor. His re­ply was that the dis­rup­tion was “while re­gret­table, fairly small and that it would not be a good idea to pro­long the mat­ter and run up costs”.

Mr Dan­goor is en­ti­tled to his view and I am en­ti­tled to mine, which is that he and his fel­low trus­tees were grossly neg­li­gent in this mat­ter, and that their neg­li­gence can only have en­cour­aged the pro­test­ers, and em­bold­ened them.

Let us all hope that — should ei­ther of the Habima per­for­mances be sim­i­larly dis­rupted — the Globe trus­tees act with a great deal more courage and prin­ci­ple.

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