Play “Living in metal” engages audience inside prison walls

by Jameel al-Husni
AL-FAR'A – On the walls of cells built by the British mandate authority
there appears the worn bodies of Palestinians bleeding. Nearby sits an
Israeli intelligence officer behind a table in the middle of a yard
surrounded by narrow cells facing a shaking Palestinian youth. On the
rooftops of the nearby rooms, there stand soldiers pointing their arms
towards a crowd of Palestinians watching this scene in great astonishment
for its deep eloquence and expressive theme.

In another place one hears moaning preceded by continuous beating by
soldiers speaking only Hebrew or broken Arabic. Many video cameras and
cameras attempt to record the details of this event and the noise it
This scene in one of the Israeli investigation rooms is the first of its
kind theatrical play in the West Bank performed by al-Far’a actors to a
mainly western audience. “Living in Metal,” was performed at Salah Khalaf
Center, what used to be the British Police Center, then a Jordanian Police
station and finally at a detainment center run by the Israeli army. The
title references the thousands of Palestinians still kept in Israeli
detainment centers and prisons.
A young actor, Wasfi Tayeh, leads the cast, who intended to perform their
show in the same place used by the Israeli authorities to interrogate
Palestinian activists before the building was turned into a youth center by
the Palestinian Authority (PA).
Tayeh said that the whole performance came to him when they were requested
to perform something unique, something never done in the occupied
territories before. The show is distinctive for its non-traditional style,
which actually began off stage.
Around 20 actors participated, added to the 300 audience members who form a
crucial part of the play. “We wanted to involve the audience in this work,
especially foreign visitors, who definitely got an idea what life is like
inside a prison,” Tayeh said.
The performance uses the element of surprise. The audience progresses down a
long corridor to the prison yard where the show is performed. Here they are
greeted by young men wearing Israeli military uniforms, cursing them and
ordering them to show their identification documents. The audience was
bombarded throughout the performance with moans, screams and swearwords.
Tayeh said that all other efforts to portray prisoners via drama have been
unable to achieve their objectives, especially those related to torture and
humiliation against prisoners inside Israeli cells.
The main theme of the play concerns a young Palestinian man who worked on
his land before being arrested by the Israeli army and was handed over to
intelligence forces, who wished to force the man into selling his land. In
the face of temptation and intimidation, he refuses to do so.
As he is tortured, the young man falls to the ground with blood covering his
face, but still refuses to drink water offered the officers. He is then
handed over to a settler, who tortures him more. In the ensuing scene, the
audience curses the occupation and praises the young man.
At the end of this scene, Tayeh, who was tied to a wall in the beginning,
becomes the focus of the play. He embodies the personae of a bearded
Palestinian man, wearing a white garment and covered in blood caused by his
torture. He rises on his feat and recollects himself and shouts, “Ultimately
Palestinians will win. The prisons and the occupation are transient.”

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