‘Off with their heads!’ screeched the Red Queen as Alice hung suspended from the ceiling.
‘Nooo!!!’ wailed Tweedle Dum as the rabbit scrambled around in a panic, his ears catching the electric blue light.
The caterpillar laughed maniacally as the Mad Hatter and the Cheshire Cat battled across the revolving stage and, as Tweedle Dum was being forced towards the incinerator, the Queen picked up a microphone and began strutting her stuff in a hip swinging rendition of ‘One Way or Another'.
I look at my colleague in the darkened theatre and heard the words ‘I wasn’t expecting this’ at the very moment I was thinking it.
We had not been expecting it. Not from a nonprofit theatre company in Jenin Refugee Camp. Not from the actors, who’d seen with childhood eyes some of the worst days of both the first and second intifadas, and not even from Palestine itself.
There was pumping music, extravagant costumes and colorful character interpretation. Not least from the very camp Mad Hatter and the darkly sensual Cheshire Chat.
Alice was running away from an arranged marriage and the inhabitants of wonderland lived under the oppressive tyranny of the Red Queen and saw Alice as the key to their freedom.
Staging fabulous productions is not all The Freedom Theatre in Jenin Refugee Camp does. Multiple articles could be written about all that The Freedom Theatre does.
It began as a small, unlikely project; the combined efforts of an Israeli lady and the women of the camp. First a community centre for children slowly expanding into a theatre that including actor training and drama therapy.
The Freedom Theatre is seen by its members as a life saving endeavor; the thing that keeps them from venting their frustration in more violent ways.
Check it out… www.thefreedomtheatre.org