Exploring the Tel Aviv-London connection

Over four days in November, Israelis will be able to savor a slew of artistic creations from the UK

‘HAMLET’S BIG ADVENTURE’ will be performed by the aptly named Reduced Shakespeare Company (photo credit: DANIEL-COSTON)
‘HAMLET’S BIG ADVENTURE’ will be performed by the aptly named Reduced Shakespeare Company
(photo credit: DANIEL-COSTON)
Many years ago, a friend of mine took a chef’s course. He told me all the students had been given an international cookbook, a sort of culinary Bible, with important dishes from around the world. Knowing my British origins he delighted in informing me that the UK had nary a line in the voluminous tome.
Cuisine police snobbery aside, this is probably a matter of, literally, taste. Many visitors to Britain fit in a visit to a fish and chip shop – aka a “chippy” – into their agenda, with shepherd’s pie also a favorite. When in Rome, and all that.
Both the aforesaid British staples will be on the menu when the inaugural London in Tel Aviv festival begins on November 27. Over four days we will be able to savor a slew of artistic creations from the United Kingdom – although, given the seemingly endless Brexit political morass, perhaps the “United” should be taken advisedly.
This week’s press conference at the Israeli Opera House at which the four-day event was officially announced was attended by a phalanx of VIPs, including British Deputy Ambassador Mark Power, chief curator of the Tel Aviv Museum of Art Doron Rabina, Tel Aviv Mayor Ron Huldai, London-based internationally renowned Israeli choreographer Hofesh Schechter, and Jewish British philanthropist Marc Worth.
Worth is the brains and energy behind the concept of marrying British and Israeli artistic endeavor, although he says the initiative came from the current British prime minister. “When Boris Johnson was mayor of London in 2015, he suggested to the Israeli Embassy to have some sort of cultural exchange. I was not connected to the embassy at all, but I’d been doing some fashion-related things – that’s my background,” says the co-founder of World Global Style Network.
“They asked me if I would help.” Worth was duly and swiftly roped in. “Within about 24 hours it turned into ‘Will you run it for us?’” he says with a laugh.
The November event follows the 2017 TLV in LDN Festival, which brought Israeli culture and arts to the UK, and, says Worth, attracted 12,000 people. Now the cultural tables are being turned.
Of course, if you are going to have any cultural gathering in this country, it generally helps to have some edibles to offer. In addition to the stated street-level British delicacies, the free Just Act slot on November 28 at the museum will unveil some of the latest developments in comestibles. As a leader on the hi-tech global stage, the idea of technology-assisted food preparation is a given here, and Just Act will bring together leading local chefs, artists, designers, bloggers and technology entrepreneurs. Each will be allowed just eight minutes in a whizz-bang presentation line-up. There may very well be more to come over at the British end of the binational cultural enterprise, with ACT event curators Meirav Oren and Carmit Oron looking to spread their state-of-the-art food word to London in the near future.
The jewel in the crown of the London in Tel Aviv program (which incidentally is sponsored by the Virgin Atlantic airlines in honor of launching its new route between Israel and Britain next week), is Grand Finale. The latter is an acclaimed work created by Schechter in 2017. The show will be presented at the Tel Aviv Performing Arts Center every day of the festival.
The Jerusalem-born Schechter has been domiciled in the UK since 2002, and has been running his own dance company there for over 10 years. He was awarded an honorary OBE (Order of the British Empire) by Queen Elizabeth last year. Grand Finale is a power piece which takes a no-nonsense look at some of the political and ecological ills we have dished up for ourselves. It is basically a dystopian work but includes some striking moments of dark humor, too. The Tel Aviv audiences should be duly riveted.
An exhibition by Israeli-born UK-resident and multidisciplinary artist Karen Russo is also slated for the Tel Aviv Museum. The solo show comprises three new video creations and a number of large-scale charcoal sketches. Russo has a penchant for history and this exhibition examines Germany culture and looks at the relationship between irrationality and art through the prism of expressionism. Russo’s intriguing work feeds off a range of visual forms, such as architecture, art, cinema (documentary and sci-fi), seasoned with a range of science and research.
There is more in the way of video art courtesy of Scottish artist Rachel Maclean, whose Spite Your Face creation will be officially unveiled at the Tel Aviv Museum on November 27. The video has been described as “a dark Venetian fairytale presented as a large-scale portrait projection.” The work is a tale of two contrasting worlds – one glittering and optimistic, the other a perverse impoverished nether domain – and how they interface.
There is also plenty in the way of cinematic entertainment that includes Oliver Hirschbiegel’s biographical drama Diana, based on the last two years of Princess Diana’s life and starring Naomi Watts. The Margaret Thatcher biopic The Iron Lady with Meryl Streep is also in the line-up of half-a-dozen British movies, as are a couple of Michael Caine films, Mr. Morgan’s Last Love and My Generation, a documentary about London in the Swinging Sixties.
And, of course, you can’t really have a British cultural exposition without something from the Bard. The London in Tel Aviv bill provides an unapologetically tongue-in-cheek take on the Shakespearean oeuvre, with Hamlet’s Big Adventure, performed by the aptly named Reduced Shakespeare Company. The RSC is a touring American troupe which performs highly energized improvisational and concise versions of well-known works, such as The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) in 1987 and The Complete History of Comedy (abridged) in 2013.
On the musical front, celebrated Israeli composer, conductor and pianist Gil Shohat will team up with British cellist Natalie Clein in a recital featuring works by Bach, Brahms, Bloch, Rachmaninoff and Chopin.
British DJs Donna Leake, compatriot rappers Lava La Rue and Ms. Banks will be among the artists dishing up the decibels at Tel Aviv’s Teder venue. Things take on a more pop-rock look and sound when the Rimon School of Music’s Omer’s Gang ensemble plays a tribute to The Beatles, and a show that culls hits by British musical icons such as David Bowie, Queen and Amy Winehouse
The festival lineup also includes a sporting event, with a Special Olympics soccer team featuring children and adults with intellectual and physical disabilities, from Britain playing against a similar Israeli team.
Taking all that lot in can be a thirsty business. Fortunately, there will be some British beer available to help.