A series of five minute plays will be premiered in London next week, 26-31 January, responding to issues of censorship and boycotts in the arts. Offstage Theatre, in association with Theatre Uncut, have commissioned playwrights Caryl Churchill, Ryan Craig, April De Angelis, Tim Fountain, Hannah Khalil, Neil LaBute, Hattie Naylor, Gbolahan Obisesan, Julia Pascal, Evan Placey, Mark Ravenhill and Sarah Solemani; several of whom were outspoken in their support of London’s Tricycle Theatre that was vilified in the press over its offer to UK Jewish Film to replace Israeli embassy funds for its annual film festival.

Offstage Theatre company names the events of Summer 2014, including the Tricycle decision, as the inspiration for this series of short plays: in July at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, Underbelly pulled an Israeli show, The City, after protests in solidarity with the Palestinian people, and in September, the Barbican closed the live art installation Exhibit B, following protests that it dehumanised Africans.

Cressida Brown, who founded Offstage in 2006 and directs all 11 plays, told the Independent, “All these events caused division within the art community and among my peers. Social media went mad over it – people were tweeting furiously at one another – and there didn’t seem to be any actual opportunity for face-to-face debate about these events. Freedom of expression is essentially what all of these incidents are about it, so I decided to contact playwrights of contrasting opinions in the hope that I would bring an audience of different opinions into the same room together.”

Brown explained to the same newspaper it was “shockingly easy” to get playwrights to write a work because the topic of freedom of expression “is so relevant now to the UK arts scene”. “I got rapid responses. Within a month I had a complete line-up. It’s such a tricky issue that needs to be explored,” she says. “Playwright Sarah Solemani said ‘Yes’ and I got a perfect play in my inbox about anti-Semitism in the cultural boycott of Israel within five minutes and then I got the most genius of pieces by Churchill in about the same time – these pieces are straight from the heart. But I am now questioning myself as to whether I should censor one of the plays I’ve received about censorship! I’m wondering if I am going to get anybody into trouble by doing these plays.”

April De Angelis, told the Independent that she wrote her five-minute play Sun City in about an hour. It is about a musician who is flying out to play a gig in the apartheid-era South African resort Sun City, but he hasn’t read the small print. It asks what is an artist’s political responsibility?

Should an artist allow their work to be performed in, or supported by, a state which is committing human rights abuses and where that state is using its support for the arts as ‘culture washing’ abroad – that is promoting a vision of itself as benevolent? Not in my opinion. (De Angelis)

After each performance, which will include all twelve five minute plays, there will be a half hour post-show discussion with the audience and a panel, including one of the commissioned writers. These discussions will vary each night from boycotts and protests, to social media and political responsibility. Current panelists and chairs include: Mark Thomas, Louise Jeffreys (Director of Arts, Barbican), David Lan (Artistic Director, Young Vic), Jodie Ginsberg (CEO, Index on Censorship), Jo Glanville (Director, English PEN), Rose Fenton (Director, Free Word) and Julia Farringdon.

You can book your ticket to attend a performance of Walking the Tightrope at Theatre Delicatessen here.

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