I woke up this morning in a reflective mood. Last night along with Leftwing Idiot and Poppy, I saw Mark Thomas’s incredible and thought provoking show, Extreme Rambling – Walking the Wall, currently in its last few days at the Tricycle Theatre.
In 2010 Mark walked 750km along the Israeli Separation Barrier. In the show he recounts his journey, and describes the people he met, walked with, or was arrested by. Mark performed alone, his only prop being a large map of the region. I can’t think of an occasion since primary school where simply being told a story has been so utterly absorbing.
Mark’s walk was prompted by something hideously ugly – the Israeli wall that facilitates the oppression and control of Palestinians living on what remains of their land.
Through the story of his extreme ramble he explored a bigger theme – the damaging effect of prejudice, intolerance and ignorance on individuals and communities. I was particularly struck by his observation that it wasn’t only the Palestinians who were being isolated by this wall.
This issue reaches far beyond the West Bank. Prejudice divides any community that gives it room.
During the interval I was asked if I’d move and sit in the production booth at the side of the stage because some members of the audience couldn’t tolerate the noise of my tics.
I’d made sure the theatre and Mark knew I had Tourettes before I arrived. The staff were welcoming and Mark came to meet me before the show. With my permission, he’d explained to the audience at the beginning that I would be making some unusual noises.
When the theatre manager asked me if I’d move, he made it clear that I didn’t have to. But inevitably, when I heard people around me had complained and didn’t want me to be there, I felt extremely uncomfortable and I agreed to move.
Once in the booth I was hit by a wave of humiliation and sadness. I started to cry. Part of me wanted to leave and never go to the theatre again. But I knew this wasn’t a positive solution for me or anyone else. Leftwing Idiot and Poppy were brilliantly supportive as ever, and I could see the situation was difficult and upsetting for them too.
The show was funny and moving and forced me to think about the experiences and injustices faced by the Palestinians. Among the events Mark described was joining the Friday protests by villagers in Bil’in. Every week a mix of Israelis and Palestinians of all generations march to the wall together in protest against its existence. Every week they are tear-gassed. They’ve remained undeterred for six years and I was struck by their resilience and inspired by their strength.
Creating an inclusive society is sometimes uncomfortable, but a divided community is always unacceptable and destructive.