‘Shipwrecked in Jerusalem’: British Amateur Theatre and Colonial Culture in Mandatory Palestine

Hagit Krik, Eitan Bar-Yosef

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Established in Jerusalem in 1921 by a group of British officials, the Jerusalem Dramatic Society (JDS) was the most prolific amateur theatrical association in Mandatory Palestine; operating continuously until 1947, it played a key role in the cultural life of Palestine’s British community. Its unique features—a compressed timeline on the one hand, a surprisingly rich repertoire on the other—make it an ideal case-study, exposing subtle social and cultural mechanisms that made amateur theatre such a pivotal colonial institution across the British Empire. Examining the JDS’s development, organisation, and spectatorship, the article demonstrates that while early plans envisioned a society that would bring together Britons, Arabs, and Jews, the JDS soon became exclusively British, employing a specific repertoire to enhance this Britishness further. It was this insularity, combined with the creative and recreational aspects of amateur theatre, which generated a convivial intimacy so instrumental to Britons’ communal bonding. Yet the conviviality always went hand in hand with an acute awareness of the productions’ amateurishness, generating avid debates concerning cultural hierarches and the objectives of amateur theatre in the colonial sphere. Exploring these concerns, the article ultimately suggests that the historical and historiographical significance of the JDS and similar societies stems from the affinity between amateur theatre and the colonial periphery, both removed from the professional/metropolitan centre.

Original languageAmerican English
Pages (from-to)113-143
Number of pages31
JournalJournal of Imperial and Commonwealth History
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1 Jan 2022


  • Amateur theatre
  • British expatriates
  • Colonial culture
  • Jerusalem
  • Mandatory Palestine

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Development
  • History
  • Political Science and International Relations


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