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Dual performance in Gaza and London, a world first by Station House Opera

AHGLThe World premiere of At Home in Gaza and London follows the lives of people living in two locations separated by great political, economic and physical divides. Using an innovative mix of live-streaming and recorded video, performers in London and Gaza are brought together in a single performance space. They occupy each other’s homes, streets and other social spaces, sharing their everyday behaviour and concerns, as they dissolve into each other or become ghostly protagonists in the drama.

Survival tactics, creative impulses and the coping mechanisms that sustain those living in Gaza are explored, while the temporary release offered by modern technology is celebrated.

By uniting artists across the globe, At Home in Gaza and London opens a new way for artists to engage with each other across international divides, while sharing a direct and personal response to life in Gaza.

READ OUR INTERVIEW WITH AMJAD SHABAT
Q: Can you tell us about ‘At Home in Gaza and London’, and its developments?
Amjad: Well, ‘At Home in Gaza and London’ is an art project, it’s created for someone’s space for people in two places, who are divided politically, economically and physically. It creates this page from using live video and other technology. We are about to finish the first mark of rehearsals with many conversations and ideas coming out. Then we are having a break of 2 weeks, the frame and the scenes of the show are set and keep developing all the time.

Q: What language will the production be in?
Amjad: Well since the production is between London and Gaza, it is both in Arabic and English. We also have an Iranian artist and also another who speaks Japanese. But mainly it is in Arabic and English together.

Q: The production is uniting artists across the Globe. What practical issues in terms of casting?
Amjad: Artists use each other’s homes and work places to share stories. For example, part of the dialogue is about how much it cost to live in London and in Gaza. Such comparisons always dig down and reach the people most concerned. Artists share their personal stories and because we are a diverse group of people, as I mentioned, some of us are Iranian, others are from Arab background and from a Japanese background. Because we are a very diverse group of people coming from different backgrounds, our stories and experiences engage our own knowledge as individuals as well.

Q: Using an innovative mix of live streaming and recorded video, how difficult has that been to put together?
Amjad: Technology is the most challengeable thing in our work. Because of the enforced power outages in the Gaza Strip, the internet infrastructure is quite weak. While our project requires hi-tech. Our Government is also a big concern. In Gaza, for example, every day we have electricity of 4 hours out of 24. It often comes based with alternatives and replacements. And of course, we are doing our work live, it has put effort and it has put more concerns in both London and in Gaza. Under any circumstances the connection between the group in London and the group in Gaza has been lost, we need many efforts for the issue to be fixed and to be overcome. Many days we keep waiting until the technology is fixed because of the Internet connection, or because of the power. It is a first of its kind to have this show.

Q: Are people in Gaza generally interested in theatre and the performing arts? Do you have performances?
Amjad: Well, people in Gaza were interested in art. In Gaza, the old city used to have a rich cultural environment in terms of art and culture. However, during the past 10 years, the city, unfortunately, lost a lot of its spirit. Culture events are few these days. People have many living problems and concerns. But we insist on keep working. For example, a month ago we did a play and among the audience, there were High School students. I won’t forget the surprise and happiness on their faces to see a real theatre and real actors. For these people, we must continue.

Q: What are the primary aims of ‘At Home in Gaza and London’? What is at the heart of it?
Amjad: ‘At Home in Gaza and London’, the forecast and the situation of the people of Gaza and the relation to the inaccessible outside world. The piece explores what it means to produce a piece of theatre that is relevant and challenging in two different cultures. And also, at a place where our system, people in Gaza, share their own stories to the outside.

Q: How are rehearsals?
Amjad: Well it was quite tiring, and it’s interesting as well. For me as an assistant Director, engaged within this project for the first time. I can’t get enough of listening to how conversations are reached between the assistants. I can’t get enough of how technology can do in gathering different people from different grounds, sharing stories. And sometimes they share their main concerns and main problems about the future, the present, how do they learn, what are their ambitions etc. As I said, we are about to finish the first month of rehearsals and then we are having two weeks break.

Amjad: So, these days we are rehearsing some during Ramadan and it’s quite tiring. Because most of that in Gaza they fast but they keep going.

Q: How important is it for the residents of Gaza to get their message across?
Amjad: It’s really very important. As I said, after many years of fighting the Israeli occupation and years of fights, we feel isolated from the world. And we still care about getting our stories of suffering told. We need to feel solidarity from our friends across the world. Feeling solidarity means a lot for the people in Gaza.

Q: What are you looking for from those that attend the production and get to see the production, to take away with them?
Amjad: We like to call our work and our production, a gathering between two places. London and Gaza. We would like the people in Gaza to experience different cultures and have the feeling that they are not alone. And some people outside Palestine still care about them. Showing what technology could do is also very important as technology could gather two places together live. Leaving questions about such unique experience in audiences is also important for us. Because we are not giving a regular and traditional play, where there is a plot and there is a coincidence of actions and of events. We are giving more of a challengeable show in terms of leaving lots of the questions that people have. And as I said, it’s not a regular piece of art.

Q: Following ‘At Home in Gaza and London’, what next for you?
Amjad: Well hopefully tour the UK and abroad and hopefully such experience of ‘At Home in Gaza and London’, will spread between different circles in the world and continue to have such productions and such shows between Gaza and London particularly.

Q: Can I just ask about your role in the production?
Amjad: Yes, of course. I am the Assistant Director in Gaza. I am responsible over the ideas following the artists, giving opinions, cooperating with the community in Gaza, with the institution and caring and caring about art. That is my role, primarily.

Listen to the interview with Amjad Shabat

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At Home in Gaza and London
Co-directors – Julian Maynard Smith and Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso
Technical Director – Matt Wasser
Assistant Director and Collaborator – Amjad Shabat
Technical Director in Gaza – Hani Mortaja
Technician in the UK – Alex Hewitt
Technician in Gaza – Mohammed AlGhoul
Assistant Director in London – Ebaa Rezeq
Co-devised and Performed by: Aya Abdelrahman, Abeer Ahmed, Tara Fatehi Irani, Ali Hassany, Yoko Ishiguro, Mariam Nasser, Hamza Saftawy, Walid Tafesh and Owl Young
Sound Designer – Enrico Aurigemma
Lighting Designer – Alastair Armstrong
Produced by Artsadmin

Funded by National Lottery through Arts Council England and AFAC (The Arab Fund for Arts and Culture)

ABOUT STATION HOUSE OPERA
With past projects ranging from site-specific works created with 10,000 concrete blocks, to simultaneous performances across continents using live internet streaming, Station House Opera is a renowned performance company with a unique physical and visual style. Founded in 1980, it has produced more than 30 productions of widely varying scale and focus, but all rooted in a desire to make work that brings together theatre and the visual arts in a single unified vision.

The company has created projects in a variety of locations all over the world, from New York’s Brooklyn Bridge Anchorage to Dresden’s historic Frauenkirche and Salisbury Cathedral, and has toured the world, from Azerbaijan to Kosovo, China to Brazil.

At Home in Gaza and London
Battersea Arts Centre
Thu 28th June – Sun 1 July 2018

Press night: Thu 28 Jun, 6pm
https://www.bac.org.uk/

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