Preview: A play for peace, Steiner Theatre, London

Grimm Tales that offer some redemption
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The Independent Culture

They converged on the tranquil hamlet of Mitcheldean in Gloucestershire on a blustery day in March that offered little hope of spring. Their shiny brown faces beamed out from the fogged up windows of the white people carrier, that was transporting them from the airport to The Asha Centre on the edge of the Forest of Dean.

Most of the 21 students, straight in from the plains of northern Israel, where the Hamsin season was commencing its twice-yearly roar of hot, dusty winds of up to 35-degrees when they left, had never seen such hail, or winds laced with sheets of ice.

For the second year running, The Play For Peace Initiative, unites Israeli and Arab students through the theatre. It is the brainchild of two charities: The Asha Centre, a youth cultural centre, and Charladam, a Jewish-style kibbutz, started up in Harduf, Israel, in 2005, by a former Israeli soldier, Yakov Arnan, with his partner, Mahmoud Subach.

Together with Alexander Gifford, son of Asha Centre's founder Zerbanoo Gifford, and his colleague Adrian Locher, the foursome, all actors/directors, will direct the students in Carol Ann Duffy's Grimm Tales.

This year's play holds difficulties of a non-politic sort for them: getting the kids to learn their lines. Working in three different languages is the biggest challenge. They have decided that some of the dialogue of this year's play be spoken in Arabic.

Over coffee and through the cacophony of piano music, doors slamming and the normal rambunctious sounds of youth on a mid-afternoon break, Arnan says : "It's a constant struggle. After serving three years in the army I knew I had to give back. I was required to take lives in my service to my country, to kill, and I was compelled to do something redemptive. I believe in the transfiguring power of art."

As the quote on the entry hall wall of the Asha Centre reads, in brightly coloured canvas: "We have enough religion in the world to make us hate, but not enough to love one another."

12 April (020-7723 4400)

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