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Meet the Olive Jar Director: Elias Matar

a man leaning on a railing

Olive Jar debuts at Grand Junction next month (6 – 8 July)! We caught up with director Elias Matar to let us into the inspiration and vision behind this exciting new performance…

Elias is a director, playwright and performer who grew up in Galilee where he founded Ibillin Theatre and El Bayet Centre for Performing Arts.

What is the inspiration behind the name Olive Jar?

A jar is a tool that we use to preserve the contents for later and to keep items such as olives sealed and safe. In every Middle Eastern house, especially Palestinian households, there is one cupboard filled with lots of jars, and at least one of these jars is full of olives. When I started working with the individual stories during the workshops at Grand Junction, I saw each one of us has this cupboard deep inside our hearts, full of jars, full of stories. Also in every workshop, before we began, a jar of olives would be placed in the centre of the table, which we would share among the group while sitting and talking about our days and stories.

What has it been like exploring the stories and experiences of the local community with Middle Eastern and North African Heritage?

Having come from one of these places, I knew how intense and unpredictable the stories could be. Just like olives they could be sweet and bitter at times. It was not an easy task, and I felt a huge responsibility to create a safe space for the stories and honour the experiences of each individual sharing them. This is where my therapeutic background came in handy. The journey so far has been magical, meeting so many incredible people and exploring the amazing countries they come from. I have been fascinated and deeply moved by every story, as they were often like stories I have heard from my own family, neighbours, and friends. It felt familiar, like going to a store back in my home country and meeting these people along the way.

A man doing a speech and holding a piece of paper

What are you most excited about when it comes to turning these stories into a theatre performance?

I’m excited about lots of things. I’m excited for people to connect with the untold stories from their neighbours, and for the audience to see each person from our community beyond the labels and assumptions about our cultures and heritage. I can’t wait for people to meet the individuals who have been sharing their stories and journeys with me, and for the magic of theatre, storytelling, and good food to bring us all together.

What do you hope audiences will take away from watching the Olive Jar?

Olive Jar is a delicious adventure that invites people to be present in the space as the stories unfold on stage in different ways. Every story told has been explored and devised by the people, for the people. I hope the audiences will experience the richness and depth of human connections that these stories bring. I would like people to have a once-in-a-lifetime experience of not just being an audience member, but of being emotionally and physically engaged in a theatrical event that is very honest and genuine.

A group of people standing around each other and a man showing the direction to the boy

Why should we go see Olive Jar on the 6, 7 and 8 July?

Olive Jar is more than just a show, it’s an invitation to be part of something truly special and unique. We hope to shine a light on the diverse narratives of individuals in our community, as we come together, connect with new friends, and inspire one another to open our jars within each of us and share our own stories.

Olive Jar runs at Grand Junction from the 6 – 8 May.


Co-commissioned by Grand Junction and Shubbak Festival.

Generously supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England and the Mayor of London.