Edinburgh Shots

September 16, 2009

Here are some shots from the latest Edinbugh season 06-30 August. High res shots are available upon request.

Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea closed it second successful run at Assembly Halls in Edinburgh last Sunday 30 August 2009.  The repsonse from both audience and reviewers has been amazing during the month run at the Fringe Festival. Below are some reviews from some of the biggest reviewers.

After packing all the set, the cast drove over night from Edinburgh to Cheltnham to perform at the Greenbelt festival. Again, the play was well received and attened by over 900 people.

One 4 Review


The Scotsman


Edinburgh Guide


Electronic Intifada


Edinburgh Festival Guide


Dear Friends, Supporters and Fans,

Justin Butcher will be cycling across wales to raise funds to enable us to take the play to Edinburgh, please see message blelow.

We are now planning with Amos Trust to take it to the Assembly Rooms at this year’s Edinburgh Fringe, the world’s biggest arts festival, to continue the campaign of awareness-raising and calling for an end to the siege.

Our total costs for this are just over £38,000, of which we have raised just over £16,000 thus far.

Next week, from Thursday June 25th-Sunday June 28th, I shall be cycling the coast to coast route across Wales to raise funds for this project, 223 miles in 4 days from Bangor to Cardiff. My target figure is £10,000 (that’s a hundred friends giving £100 each, or 200 giving £50 each etc etc).

I would be very grateful if you would consider making a donation to this fund. The simplest way to do so is to visit my justgiving page:


Making a donation online via Justgiving is quick, secure and easy.

Alternatively, you can write a cheque, made payable to Amos Trust and write “for the Gaza play” on the back, and send it to: Amos Trust, All Hallows-on-the-wall, 83 London Wall, London EC2M 5ND. If appropriate, please include a letter stating that you are a UK tax-payer and wish to Gift-Aid your donation, thereby increasing its value by 28%.

Thank you for reading this, and thank you for your support. Please forward this to any friends you think may be interested in supporting the project.

Kind regards –

Justin B.


Please click the link below for a PDF document of the amazing review of the play by the Palestine Telegraph

Palestine Telegraph review

Tribune Review

June 16, 2009

THEATRE: Creative responses to death and destruction in Gaza

March 29, 2009 12:00 am admin arts

“Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea”, Theatro Technis, London

“Damascus”, Tricycle Theatre, London

THERE have been many attempts to combine visual art installation with theatre, most of them failures. Anyone remember Vanessa Redgrave’s Antony and Cleopatra, complete with portable Balkan bombsite?

Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea is by far the most powerful example I’ve yet seen of a border-crossing theatrical mix. One chokes on a familiar smell – plaster dust – as one confronts an otherwise unimaginable scale of destruction. A towering mountainscape of mashed and whitened shoes dwarfs and awes the entering audience, before the teeming heap brings forth all manner of creative responses to the assault on Gaza.

From this shoe-mountain emerges, swearing, a spiv tunneller with his bag of contraband for corrupt officials; onto its slopes clambers a young man seeking death (based on co-writer/director Ahmed Masoud’s own brother); from its confines rebellious teenagers and toddlers sortie, only to be shelled back inside; and from its depths come the personal memorials of an entire extended family, killed as they took shelter in their home.

BBC reporter and United Nations official, exhausted mother, rescuer shot en route to an ambulance, Israeli refusenik, father brutally and serially bereaved – all are characters issuing forth from this fertile pile, inhabited by an extraordinarily versatile cast assembled apparently in just three days.

A composite voice emerges – profane, witty, desperate and poetic – a voice from Gaza Beach itself, that packed, water-starved refugee camp beside the Red Sea, patrolled by warships “in case it might part to let out a trapped people”.

Songs from Nizar al Issar run counter to the action: singing of the imperative to live and love when the young man seeks death; telling of time become a prison-space and space congealed to stony time, as various characters launch their hasty doomed escapes.

At the close, irony fails. The young man joins a terrifying war dance, waves flag and dies – though with a bitterly sarcastic joke on his lips; his mother is left to her anguish. Fade.

For an English audience, the true story of Masoud’s brother – who volunteered to fight, but Hamas turned him down – might have made a more accessible ending. But a picture of Gaza without fighters would have been a whitewash.

Perhaps in these days it was inevitable (although shaming) that the Zionist Federation should send a senior official to monitor/intimidate the small theatre, or that the Jewish Chronicle should yoke “Go to Gaza” to Caryl Churchill’s recent Seven Jewish Children at the Royal Court, as modern blood libels. But did Time Out really have to use a reviewer from CultureWars, an alias for the bizarre sect Living Marxism, infamous for persistently denying the Bosnian genocide? Culture wars indeed.

Jews for Justice for Palestinians helped to fund the production and I should declare an interest. I’m a JfJfP signatory, although I didn’t know of the play project and attended without ever expecting an experience of this power.

In another week, David Greig’s Damascus might not have appeared so superficial.

It was, after all, written two years ago as a Valentine’s Day comedy of misunderstandings for Glasgow’s Traverse company.

ESOL, the burgeoning industry of English as a Second Language, is a good vehicle to choose for abounding errors. Teacher Paul lands in Syria with a new textbook to sell and a wish that he was in Barbados – unfortunately Greig seems to wish it, too.

The best jokes come when Arab intellectuals burst into their own language, conveyed onstage by rapid, idiomatic

English while Paul limps along in his schoolboy French. The trouble is that

most of the characters are – just like the hapless ex-Soviet transsexual condemned to play endless piano in the hotel lobby – running on autopilot.

At the close of Damascus, as in the other play, humour vanishes and a gun brandishes. Only this time there’s complete lack of effect.  Can we really not get beyond stereotypes of the blundering benevolent Britisher and the dangerous passions of troublesome foreigners?

Amanda Sebestyen

Review: British Theatre Guide

February 27, 2009

Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea

By Justin Butcher & Ahmed Masoud

Passion Pit theatre & Zeitgeist Theatre

Theatro Technis


Review by Howard Loxton (2009)



This is a theatre piece that has been created in the last three weeks in reaction to what has been happening in besieged Gaza since Christmas with first air attacks and then a ground assault by the Israeli army which they called ‘Operation Cast Lead.’ It is essential a piece of verbatim theatre, constructed from the interviews and statements from people in Gaza, video footage taken there, an Israeli government spokesman seen on television news and some scripted material which is itself based on actual people and events, and some beautiful songs sung by Nizar Al-Issa accompanying himself on the Ood.

It opens by welcoming us to Gaza (Retzu’at ‘Azza in Hebrew) Azza being a sort of  devil  and therefore also welcome to hell where a white faced figure emerging from one of the tunnels constructed beneath the closed borders to bring some food, fuel, medicines – and arms –  to those beleaguered there. He is both a real merchant and a sort of Virgil figure to lead us through the various levels of this Inferno but the personal stories that we encounter are entirely real. A mother waiting for her son to return, the choreographer daughter who tries to lift her own spirits with dance, the paramedic shot in helping, the father whose little daughter will never walk again, the extended family of 49 all dying together while sheltering in one members house when the rest been  destroyed, the UNWRA local head and the BBC correspondent who had informed the Israeli’s of exact locations of places used as shelters and with no military connection that were then bombed or shelled, the young man who’s experience is driving him to take up arms.

Except for Israeli government speak and one voice from Israel – a Jewish peace protestor talking telling us of her terror when the army she had once wanted to join now turned its guns on her – this is a view from Gaza. It is an emotive piece, a cry of pain made bearable by some beautiful and poignant songs. This is not a piece of political argument but a simple presentation of what life as it is now being lived. The writers, who are also co-directors, and co-deviser and designer Jane Frere have appropriate the image of shoes now closely associated with the Holocaust and the extermination camps in which so many Jews and others died and used it here with potent force. They have put together a powerful blend of theatrical elements that touch the heart. However it is not just a plea for compassion and human rights ignored for it shows the reaction of joining the Hamas military. It does this through a piece of clever choreography, extremely effectively, but at the risk of romanticising the brutal facts and which turns waste of life into patriotic martyrdom rather than the tragedy for all of us that this play represents. It is played with great sincerity by Fisun Burgess, Rupert Mason, Amir Boutrous, Ali Alzougbi and George Couyas and it is almost unbelievable that something so effective could have been created in such a short time. At the first preview, which is when I saw it, a couple of voices were not yet quite matched to the playing space but that is something that should be easily corrected by the time my colleagues go to see it.

Until 14th March 2009



·  Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea

·  Until Sat Mar 14

·  Theatro Technis, 26 Crowndale Rd, London, NW1 1TT

·  Rating:


·  By Andrew Haydon

Posted: Mon Feb 23

·  Hard on the heels of Caryl Churchill’s ‘Seven Jewish Children’ comes Justin Butcher and Ahmed Masoud’s rapid response to the recent conflict in Gaza. The play adopts precisely the opposite strategy to Churchill’s piece, choosing to focus almost entirely on Palestinian characters and studiously avoiding any reference to either Judaism or Islam. On the face of it the drama is about the ‘human tragedy’ but, inevitably, it takes a position. As such, its pretence of objectivity becomes deeply insidious.

Theatrically, the piece is a rather fun mix of pretty much everything. It’s got Palestinian music and dancing; monologues and drama; stuff that looks like verbatim theatre and stuff that’s clearly speculative; video footage; comedy and tragedy and physical theatre. These elements are loosely framed by the story of a young Palestinian who has lost his will to live: he is led, Dante-like, around scenes showing some of the various ways one can die in Gaza, which, it is noted, can be translated as ‘hell’.

The staging is striking. At one end of the large church hall-like space is what looks like rubble but turns out to be thousands of shoes. Shoes become a recurring metaphor for death. While effective, it is also troublingly reminiscent of the room in the Auschwitz memorial museum. While carefully including a Jewish conscientious objector as one of the numerous talking heads, and a news clip in which the claim that Hamas use human shields is made, the piece remains unavoidably partial. By showing the young man finallylosing his life by joining ‘the resistance’, Butcher and Masoud imply that Palestinian Muslims have been forced into a corner and that Hamas is purely a resistance movement, not an aggressor. The piece is moving on loss of life in Gaza. But I felt that it was also propaganda and specious justification for Islamist terrorism.

Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea

Published Monday 23 February 2009 at 12:30 by Jonathan Lovett

Exactly a month after Israel announced a ceasefire to its latest bloody incursion into Gaza this passionate response to the ongoing humanitarian crisis opened.

Rupert Mason (Abu Mohammed) and Amir Boutrous (Sharaf) in Go To Gaza, Drink The Sea at the Theatro Technis, London Photo: Tristram Kenton

The rapid reaction of the producers, writers and designers belies the impressive detail and polish of a multi-media production incorporating personal testimonies, film, music and dance to create a harrowing journey into a very modern heart of darkness (here “Drink the Sea” means “Go to hell”) and a moving celebration of the human spirit.

On an extraordinary set of thousands of dust covered shoes – reminiscent of installations in Auschwitz – a lone musician sings of suffering before Sharaf (Amir Boutrous) ironically welcomes us to, “Gaza beach – seaside resort of the promised land”.

In short scenes, performed by the cast of six, we learn of the school decimated by white phosphorous shells which “burn on a victim for days”; a father whose children were shot in front of him; the families too scared to leave their homes, forced to survive on the festering tank water.

Wisely refusing to take an overtly political standpoint we are left with righteous anger at the death of innocents and a gruesome lack of accountability based on the facts.

The shoe theme

February 24, 2009

Jane Frere, set designer and co-deviser, writes

Shoes have always held a great fascination for me as a artist.
The humble shoe not only takes on the form of its wearer, but bears witness to that person’s journey through life. Shoes retain a memory, in a way become objects of nostalgia, and when the wearer has long since gone, for me the shoe retains an element of that person’s spirit, acts as a kind of portrait.

I first used shoes thematically in a promenade theatre design set in a disused shoe factory in the suburbs of Athens in 1992. The production “Woman at War” addressed the plight of refugees, primarily in that case from Bosnia. The shoes became a metaphor for the displaced.
A decade later I stumbled across shoes again when I made a succession of visits to the former Nazi concentration camp at Majdenek in Lublin, East Poland. I was so overwhelmed by the vast scale of the massed piles of shoes – testimony to the many thousands who died there – that I filmed them for a video installation.
Ironically it was in Majdanek that I conceived the idea for my art installation, “The Nakbah Project, Return of the Soul”, which relates to the consequences of the holocaust and the subsequent displacement of three quarter of a million Palestinians when the state of Israel was formed in 1948.
In Go to Gaza, Drink the Sea, the mountains of shoes can represent a desecrated landscape, pulverised by the bombardment of tonnes of explosives from air, land and sea. At the same time the shoes can have many meanings, symbolizing people both dead and alive.”