Sadler’s Wells theatre questioned over ‘aggressive’ family-friendly show

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Sadler’s Wells theatre questioned over ‘aggressive’ family-friendly show

Jewish audience members distressed when dancer asks if anyone has been to Israel and waves Palestinian flag

Jenni Frazer is a freelance journalist

Screenshot, Breakin’ Convention 2024
International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre, Sadlers Wells
Screenshot, Breakin’ Convention 2024 International Festival of Hip Hop Dance Theatre, Sadlers Wells

Jewish families have complained about an “aggressively pro-Palestinian” performance at the “Breakin’ Convention” festival at Sadler’s Wells theatre last month.

Children and adults alike were shocked after Sasha Mahfouz Shadid, a self-described “British-Palestinian artist born in Southsea”, appeared on stage talking about the killing of a Palestinian child by Israel, asking the audience if any of them had been to Israel, and finally waving a giant Palestinian flag at the conclusion of his act. Breakin’ Convention was billed as a “family-friendly” show.

One 12-year-old girl, who said it had been a “very hostile atmosphere”, later told her family that she had spent most of Shadid’s act holding hands with her friend, and that she had been very scared” when Shadid challenged the audience about having visited Israel.

Shadid’s appearance was part of a festival curated by the dancer, poet and hip-hop artist Jonzi D, whose social media posts show a high level of anti-Israel input. UK Lawyers for Israel, which has complained on behalf of the families to Sadler’s Wells, said Jonzi D’s reposted messages “feature antisemitic tropes such as Israelis/Jews controlling the world, killing babies and even ‘crucifying”’ Palestinians”. Additionally, UKLFI say, Jonzi D “has posted fake images that falsely imply Israel has caused a ‘holocaust’”.

Reviewing the event for the British Theatre Guide, Tamsin Flower wrote: “The most politically overt and punchy work of the evening was an athletic meditation on the plight of Palestine by Sasha Mahfouz Shadid… Although the storytelling of this piece was at times indecipherable because of its sheer energy and rage, its message of outrage and pain was acute”.

Now UKLFI has written to Sir Alastair Spalding, artistic director and co-chief executive of Sadler’s Wells, regarding the show. It asks Sadlers Wells to conduct an urgent investigation into the breaches of the Equality Act during the Breakin’ Convention show on May 5 2024, and suggests that there may also have been potential breaches of section 406 of the Education Act 1996.

Caroline Turner, director of UKLFI, commented: “While it is wonderful that Sadler’s Wells is promoting new and evolving forms of dance, to attract and include diverse audiences, it needs to be careful that it does not discriminate against members of the audience.”

A spokesman for Sadler’s Wells responded: “We are aware of the complaint and are investigating it.”

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