Page last updated at 14:37 GMT, Sunday, 19 April 2009 15:37 UK

Hare takes aim at Israel barrier

By Neil Smith
Entertainment reporter, BBC News

British playwright Sir David Hare has followed a self-performed monologue about the Berlin Wall with another about Israel's West Bank barrier.

Sir David Hare
Sir David is best known for plays like Plenty, Skylight and Racing Demon

The two pieces, presented separately in London, will be staged together next month in New York as Berlin/Wall.

In Berlin, performed at the National Theatre in February, Sir David offered an affectionate look at the German city 20 years on from the fall of what was once its most iconic feature.

His new piece, however, is a far angrier work that analyses the 670 km (420 mile) barrier that Israel began constructing in and around the occupied West Bank in 2002.

When completed, he says, the separation barrier will be "over four times as long as the Berlin Wall and in some places twice as high."

A combination of concrete slabs, electric fences, ditches, trenches, watchtowers and checkpoints, the barrier, Hare continues, costs around $2m (£1.35m) a kilometre to build and maintain.

Israel says the barrier is the only way to defend against suicide bombings by Palestinian militants.

Because 85% of its intended route lies inside the West Bank, however, Hare says it is regarded by its opponents "more as a land-grab".


Sir David first visited Israel and the West Bank to write Via Dolorosa, his acclaimed one-man show about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

Wall - a term that is in itself contentious - recounts a more recent visit that saw him witness the everyday frustration suffered by those attempting to travel to and through the occupied territory.

Israel's West Bank barrier
Israel began building the West Bank barrier in 2002

The playwright has little time for the Israeli soldiers who delay his journey at one of the many road blocks scattered across the West Bank.

"Why are they wasting time by holding back one line of traffic which they could perfectly well let through, while they permit the flow of another?" he asks.

"The answer seems clear," he continues. "They are doing it because they can."

But he is equally scathing of a cafe owner in the Palestinian city of Nablus who proudly displays a poster of Saddam Hussein on his premises because "he stood up to the Americans."

"If you were going to choose a hero, could you choose a worse?" he sighs, describing the executed Iraqi leader as "the master of mass graves and untold massacres".


Directed by Stephen Daldry, which whom Hare collaborated on his films The Hours and The Reader, Wall is sure to divide audiences as clearly as its subject divides land.

On Friday night, though, some audience members could be seen nodding in agreement or heard muttering words of approval.

Some might miss the mix of wry European travelogue and catty showbiz anecdote that characterises its companion piece.

In their place, however, comes an urgency and indignation that will be shared by many on either side of the Middle East conflict.

Wall continues at the Royal Court theatre in London until 25 April.

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