ED2014 News ED2014 Theatre

Underbelly postpones controversial Israeli-backed show, seeks alternative venue

By | Published on Thursday 31 July 2014

The City

Bosses at Underbelly have been forced to put on hold hip hop theatre show ‘The City’ after protests over the production receiving state funding from the Israeli government. Though the Fringe venue says it hopes to find a new location for the production, where possible protests will have less impact on the wider Festival.

Opposition to the show appearing at the Fringe has been brewing since the new hostilities in Gaza began, with a number of significant Scottish arts figures and the Scottish Palestine Solidarity Campaign calling for the production to be cancelled. The opposition isn’t to the show itself, or its performers Incubator Theatre, but the fact the venture has received funding from the Israeli state.

A spokesman for John Stalker Productions, which is promoting the show’s Edinburgh run, previously insisted that, while ‘The City’ was in part funded by Israel’s Ministry Of Culture, the production “is of great significance to furthering cross-community dialogue and debate” in Incubator’s home country.

The spokesman said: “Incubator Theatre exists to be an agent of significant cultural change in Jerusalem, working in both east and west Jerusalem, and an active force in developing an urban climate of pluralism and openness that accommodates a wide spectrum of opinions and world views. This work is of great significance to furthering cross-community dialogue and debate in the region”.

But with the situation in Gaza seemingly continuing to escalate, the SPSC remains opposed to a show with funding from the Israeli state appearing at the Fringe. It has vowed to protest outside every performance, and did so yesterday.

‘The City’ was scheduled to be performed at Underbelly’s Cow Barn venue in Edinburgh University’s Reid Hall, right in the middle of the wider Fringe’s Bristo Square hub. The protests, therefore, caused significant issues in a key Festival thoroughfare, hence Underbelly’s decision to put the show on hold. Though in a statement yesterday, and at last night’s official venue launch, Underbelly bosses insisted they would try to find a new home for the controversial show.

Underbelly’s statement read: “Earlier today, after discussions between Underbelly, Incubator Theatre, the University Of Edinburgh and Police Scotland it was agreed that future performances of ‘The City’ at The Reid Hall would be cancelled. Today’s performance of ‘The City’ went ahead as planned, but the logistics of policing and stewarding the protest around The Reid Hall – and the effect of the disturbance on Underbelly and other venues’ other shows – make it untenable for the show to continue in the Cowbarn, Reid Hall”.

Although anyone who has bought tickets to the show will now receive a refund, the venue’s statement concluded: “Underbelly and Incubator Theatre will work to identify other suitable venues for the show to perform at in Edinburgh”.