The Alternativity

Artwork made by Banksy in 2017 to promote the Alternativity.

On Tuesday, 2019-12-10 we had the pleasure of watching a 20 minute long televised nativity play from 2017-12-03. The actual performance took place in the car park of the Walled Off Hotel in Bethlehem, adjacent to an Israeli West Bank wall.

The Walled Off Hotel is owned by Banksy. Wikipedia describes him as, “an anonymous England-based street artist, vandal, political activist, and film director, active since the 1990s.” He is believed to be Robin Gunningham (1973 – ) born in Yate, 19 km from Bristol, England.

Banksy had contributed a scripting treatment for the play, then convinced Danny Boyle (1956 – ) to direct it. Boyle is especially known as the director of Slumdog Millionaire (2008) and as the artistic director of the opening ceremony at the Summer Olympics (London, 2012).

The difficulty with using celebrities is that they don’t actually have time to do the grunt work. Thus, two Bethlehem locals have to do most of the casting, rehearsing and the preparatory work needed to produce the play. These include drama teacher Riham Isaac and hotel manager Wisam Salsaa. Work on the play lasted six weeks from the middle of October to the beginning of December, 2017. Casting problems included finding a suitable donkey.

On Wednesday, 2019-12-11 we watched an hour long documentary about the production. This gave background material, about the play as well as insights into the situation facing the Palestinians. This included a fake apology on the 100th anniversary (2017-11-02) of The Balfour Declaration, a public statement issued by the British government announcing support for the establishment of a “national home for the Jewish people” in Palestine. This was done without any consultation with the Palestinian people.

As the Christmas season approaches, people are encouraged to watch both of these productions. In order for the background material to make sense, it is necessary to watch the play first!