Border Crossings

It’s an exciting time for Border Crossings – the intercultural theatre company based at Chocolate Factory 2. In early May, they are performing in Palestine, in a new co-production with Ashtar Theatre; and later in same month they are bringing the show to London, performing in the fabulous Testbed 1 space in Battersea. The play, called This Flesh is Mine, is written by Brian Woolland, and directed by Michael Walling. It’s loosely based on Homer’s war epic The Iliad, but is also very relevant to the contemporary Middle East. Michael Walling explained: “We’ve wanted to work with Middle Eastern cultures for a long time – the region is so important right now. The challenge is to find a way of making theatre that engages with the region but doesn’t apportion blame. I really didn’t want to do a piece with goodies and baddies. When Brian suggested that we use the myth of the Trojan War as a way in, that made a lot of sense to me. It allowed us to look under the surface of the news stories, and to explore what it actually feels like to live through a long war. Oddly, it actually makes a lot of what’s happening in the region right now much clearer. You take out the religion, and it becomes so obvious how leaders manipulate people through vague excuses to cover up their power-grabs. And it also shows just how huge a challenge it is to work towards any kind of reconciliation.” Ashtar Theatre is based in Ramallah, just a few miles from Jerusalem, in the West Bank. They have been to London before, visiting the Globe to Globe Festival with Richard II in 2012, and are always keen to show their work beyond the Occupied Territories. “I have nothing but admiration for them”, said Michael. “They are making theatre in incredibly difficult conditions – and the theatre that they make is a response to those conditions. What’s more, because they do so much work with children and young people in their community, their theatre also contributes to the bettering of the conditions. It’s at once an artistic vision and a programme for development and peace.” Border Crossings is a kindred spirit for Ashtar in the UK. At the same time as presenting the play, they will be offering workshops to Middle Eastern community groups and schools across London, helping people to explore the issues behind the play through their own theatre pieces. The cast of This Flesh is Mine includes three Palestinian performers from Ashtar, and three UK actors, each with an impressive pedigree at theatres like the National and the RSC. “It’s an incredible cast,” said Michael. “The project is just so important – people just really wanted to be involved. It’s going to be an extraordinary production.”

“This Flesh is Mine” performs at Testbed 1, 33 Parkgate Road, Battersea SW11 4NP from May 19-25. Tickets from £10 to £15. Book via Rich Mix: 020 7613 7498 or www.richmix.org.uk. More information at www.bordercrossings.org.uk