Graduates of the The Freedom Theatre’s acting school, Faisal Abualheja and Alaa Shehada spent the first half of 2018 touring in the UK with renowned political comedian Mark Thomas. They devised and performed ‹Showtime from the Frontline‹, a comedy show about a comedy show, one that demonstrates the radical power of giving a voice to the voiceless, all over the UK with almost 60 shows between February and April of this year. Following the completion of the tour, they returned to Jenin and spent some months working on a new project, a white comedy, that would shed light on their British experience and provide insight to a Palestinians struggle that goes beyond the occupation.
The comedy show ‹London:Jenin‹ (starring Faisal Abualheja and Alaa Shehada and directed by Khawla Ibrahim) takes the audience on a journey of the internal conflict that exists within Faisal and Alaa, one that makes them want to seek asylum in the UK and at the same, return back to Palestine. It is set in a London immigration office while they wait for their immigration interview.
The concept of immigration is the real conflict – we spent six months in the UK and this experience turned our lives upside down. EVERYTHING was great; the people, the luxury, the freedom so we thought to ourselves ‹can we make this a reality?›. In the homeland, we basically have nothing and there are so many challenges, so why not stay? Our time in London gave us a stark reminder of our identities, our background and a very rich history; herein came the conflict. A conflict about always wanting to return regardless of the situation, however always remaining a little torn. A conflict about buying real Doc Maarten shoes in Europe. And how best to convince the British to give us a British passport – our options are unlimited but how much of our identity must we compromise in the process? Do we say the Brits have the best tea in the world? Do we say we are gay? All this is brought to life in a very comical way whilst reminding the audience of our life in Jenin and the small yet powerful things that keep pulling us back. This struggle is a constant reality and a message we hope to share with the audience – with this show, we want the audience to understand WHY we always return, despite the challenges of life in Palestine and despite the occupation. Now that we’ve opened up the space in Jenin, we hope to share it all over Palestine. Faisal & Alaa, The Freedom Theatre, Jenin refugee camp
The Freedom Theatre hosted two performances of this independent production at the end of August and over the next six months, Faisal and Alaa hope to tour in the West Bank before bringing this white comedy to British soil. We wish them all the best and hope to continue supporting the work of our graduates who have become established artists in their own fields.