Walking to Jerusalem

 

In 2017 the award-winning playwright and actor Justin Butcher marshalled a motley crew of marchers on a pilgrimage from London to Jerusalem, calling for equal rights for all in the Holy Land.  More than one hundred walkers took part. Nine walked the whole way, through Europe, Turkey, Jordan, and the Holy Land.  Walking to Jerusalem is at Wilton's Music Hall on the 18 &19 March prior to a national tour.

 

Their story - walking journals and travellers’ tales of pilgrimage and conquest, monasteries, mountain passes, Bedouin camps and desert wadis, paths of gravel and rock, and one very-well used scarf, are brought to life in a playful and inventive blend of theatre and stand-up, telling of their journey.

 

“We walked from London to Jerusalem in 2017, in penance for Britain’s act of imperial hubris a hundred years before, which unleashed a century of tragedy and injustice on the Palestinian people. We walked in solidarity and hope, calling for full equal rights for all peoples in the Holy Land. Since then, things have gone from bad to worse.” Justin Butcher

 

That pilgrimage marked three major anniversaries, in a message of penance, solidarity, and hope, in the Palestinian struggle: the centenary of the Balfour Declaration, the fiftieth year of Israel’s military occupation of the Palestinian Territories, and the tenth year of the blockade of Gaza.

 

Jerusalem, their destination, is now declared the undivided capital of Israel, under Donald Trump’s so-called Peace Plan, which has been resoundingly rejected by the Palestinian community and gained little support elsewhere.  It will be debated in the UN Security Council this week.   Prince Charles, on his historic first visit to the occupied Palestinian territories this year, by contrast called for “a just and lasting peace” after meeting Palestinian leaders.

 

Playwright, actor, activist and musician Justin Butcher (Scaramouche Jones, The Madness of George Dubya, The Devil’s Passion), worked with human rights charity Amos Trust to mount the Just Walk to Jerusalem. Walking to Jerusalem, the theatrical retelling, is directed by acclaimed theatre maker Matilda Reith (The Good Times, The Andrea Project, Hotel Room), with a haunting and evocative soundscape by Jack C. Arnold (Wild Rose, War & Peace, Holy Flying Circus, Albatross) and video montage created from live footage along the route, by award-winning artist Damian Hale (Sigur Ros, Chemical Brothers, U2).

 

The artist and musician Brian Eno said this “impressive” piece “displays the kind of unusual empathy essential in that tangled and tragic situation.”   The award-winning journalist Patrick Cockburn, an incisive and respected voice on the region, calls it “gripping and intelligent.”

 

Along Roman roads and refugee routes, with occasional outbreaks of blisters, tear gas and desert spirituality, virtuoso storyteller Justin Butcher traces the perils, pratfalls and marvels of the path to Jerusalem. A chronicle of serendipity: happenstances hilarious, infuriating and occasionally numinous or, as pilgrims might say, encounters with the Divine.

 

Walking to Jerusalem premiered in a critically acclaimed sell-out run at the 2019 Dublin Theatre Festival, coinciding with the UK paperback release and US publication of Justin Butcher’s celebrated book of the same name.

 Funds raised at these performances will go to support the inspiring work of Amos Trust's partners in Palestine - Al-Ahli Hospital & NECC in Gaza, and Alrowwad Youth Centre for Culture & Arts, Holy Land Trust & Wi'am Conflict Resolution Centre in Bethlehem. Supported by Amos Trust, Hodder Faith, Waverley Learning & Zaytoun CIC.

 

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