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Last month we looked at the power of story. This month, with Al Quds day close to our hearts, we’re remembering Palestine. Just weeks after the gatherings to remember the 68th anniversary of its illegal occupation, the story of Palestinian struggle is something that weighs heavy on the heart. As we leave this most sacred month, I pray for ease after difficulty and relief after distress for our brothers and sisters.

Theatre Scenes from 68 years by Hannah Khalili

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“Watching this play, one cannot help but be moved. Witnessing the multitudinous stories that portray the shifting nature of the country through its tumultuous battle against occupation hurts.” – Moriam Grillo

The word theatre is defined in ancient Greek as ‘house of God‘. Theatrical performance was once thought to depict, through metaphor, allegory and shadow play, the meaning of life. With the unfolding drama being overseen or witnessed by Divine consciousness.

The play, ‘Scenes from 68 years toys with the literality of this well. Offering us a microscopic insight to a macrocosmic quandary: 68 years of occupation in a little over 68 minutes. The playwright Hannah Khalili competently pens a juxtaposition of dismembered scenes which time has all but forgotten. One scene unfolds seamlessly after the other even it has occurred a decade before or after. By doing so, the theme of ongoing struggle is made all the more apparent. A solitary beat connects o

ne vignette to the next. Haranguing the attention of its audience to be on guard and ready for what is to come. Whatever that may be. In conversation with Khalili, I was eager to understand what inspired this depiction.

What inspired you to write the play?

My last play, Plan D, told the story of what happens to one rural, every day family when great forces move around them. It was based on testimonies of people who lived through 1948. During and after that show many people came and told me their stories, and conversations I’d not had before opened up in my own family. It is all of these tales that led to me writing Scenes from 68* Years.

Are there aspects of your own personal experience within these stories?
Mainly these are the stories of other people and family members – though I think it is impossible for a writer not to put their personal experience into their writing some way or another. And that’s true here. I, of course, exist in parts of the play.

Each vignette is presented in a non-chronological order, why is this?

The writing of all these scenes was very easy – they came naturally and easily. The difficulty came when trying to order the play. In a traditional play you have one character on a quest and there’s a clear way to structure such a piece. This is very different, but I wanted to make sure the emotional journey was clear and that there was a story climax at the right moment and pathos and so on. As such the play went through many different drafts through development and workshops. I never actually thought to put it in chronological order. And in fact the dates of the scenes which you are given on screens in this production are not vital for a production. The point is that since 1948 Palestinians have been in stasis because of the predicament in which they have been placed.

There is a rhythm to the play, a beat, that, on the one hand comforts as a directive, but is preceded by discomfort. Is this what you hoped for?

Yes! It’s something that is hard to write on the page, and for people to understand or feel when they read the play – that is why this production is so gratifying. The director, designer, crew and actors all understood what was in the writing and have brought it out to perfection.

One comes away from the play affected by its concentrated nature. Has writing the play changed you?

It’s been a long process that started 6 years ago… so I suppose it must have changed me. Though it’s hard to pin point how exactly. People’s reactions have really encouraged me and made me confident in human beings and their ability to be open and listen and care. Also despite the fragmented form people seem to be able to follow and engage with the stories. That’s served to give me faith in myself, audiences (whatever or whoever they may be) and theatre as a form in general.

Photography – Sara Russell

“I believe that images are powerful instigators of emotion and I intend always to capture such moments that can tell a story and create room for expansion of inspiration” – Sara Russell

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I have interviewed Sara Russell for both television and print. She is a most inspiring artist whose photographic documentation speaks volumes. As the old adage concurs ‘a picture paints an thousand words’, the words that Russell’s photos convey reflect the depth and currency of her personal reflections on life and spirituality. Russell initially studied Art & Design before moving on to painting abstract narratives on canvas and experimenting with mixed media to create textile aesthetic designs.

In conversation, Russell recounted that from an early age, she enjoyed documenting the mundane. It was only four years ago that she decided to take a photography course, which she describes as a journey of discovery in which she felt excited about the prospects of going back to exploring and documenting work with an intention to become a professional. Russell is fundamentally self-taught, as is graffiti artist Muhammad Ali, who recent awarded an MBE in the Queen’s birthday honours for services to Art. To further her journey in self knowledge, Russell embarked on trip to Palestine. Travelling as part of an official delegation, Russell I was asked to document the experience. The exhibition that followed, entitled ‘Another Day’, contained a selection of images that conveyed the human struggle of Palestinians under an oppressive Apartheid regime. Russell feels that these images reflect the hopes and fears to which we can all relate. Adding that the experience of visiting Palestine has continued to remind her of the ultimate task at hand, to serve Truth by all means and allow faith in God’s Justice and in His Oneness to influence every course of action.

Russell believes the Arts and creativity are an essential tool for expression which encourage reflective dialogue. She adds that art and creativity should be explored by everyone, whether this be through poetic expression of words, painting, music, or creative performance.

Ultimately Russell’s hope is that her work inspires and encourages others to think more deeply about the concept of oneness and unity. As she believes such connections aid heightened spiritual awareness and progression.

Russell is currently working on a new exhibition entitled the ‘Perception of Unity.’The objective of this body of work will be to explore the concept of mutual connectives and the endless perspectives and perceptions that our minds consider consciously or subconsciously.

 

An exhibition of Sara Russell’s work will be on show at Living Islam festival in Lincolnshire 20-31 July

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