Maxine Peake has cancelled a play in London to highlight the plight of Palestinian playwrights and other artists targeted by the Israeli authorities.

The actress was due to appear in one-person piece Obliterated, by acclaimed UK-based Palestinian playwright Ahmed Masoud, at Amnesty International UK’s east London headquarters on August 9.

However, the pair have called it off as a protest “because art should not be targeted by soldiers”.

Maxine Peake poster
Maxine Peake poster (Amnesty International)

The fully booked free performance would have marked exactly a year since the Mishal Cultural Centre – the only working theatre in Gaza, which housed numerous arts projects in the beleaguered Palestinian territory – was destroyed by an Israeli air strike.

Peake said: “There was once a theatre that was obliterated. There was a show that did not go on.

“Our play is cancelled because art should not be targeted by soldiers or anyone else, in Gaza or anywhere else.

“The show is cancelled. The show must not go on – until we, they, all of us, are free.”

Masoud said: “I am an artist from Gaza and I was shocked by what happened to the only theatre in Gaza. How could a theatre be bombed just like that, without any warning?

“A theatre is not part of a conflict – I cannot stay silent about the bombing of a theatre.”

The theatre-goers who reserved tickets for the one-night-only performance have been informed of the reasons for the play’s cancellation.

They received an email and a special video message from the actress, which included the moving recital of a poem from the Palestinian poet Farah Chamma.

Kate Allen, Amnesty International UK’s director, said: “The cultural life of Palestinians is effectively at the mercy of the occupying Israeli forces, and this cancelled event is just a very small reminder of the harsh everyday realities confronting anyone involved in the arts in the occupied Palestinian territory.

“Amazingly, despite everything, Palestinian playwrights, writers and poets are still producing wonderful work, but they shouldn’t have to endure roadblocks, arrests, physical threats and the out-and-out destruction of their arts centres.

“We’re calling for the Israeli authorities to end their persecution of Palestinian artists.”