Tel Aviv’s Habima company was performing Shakespeare’s The Merchant Of Venice last night when demonstrators among the audience unfurled banners and displayed a Palestinian flag.
A silent protest descended into chaos with scuffles breaking out as security staff moved in to remove around 20 people.
Florence Hartley, 24, one of the demonstrators, said: “There were some of us on ground level by the stage and more people in the balcony. We took our banners out and many of us had tape over our mouths. It was a silent protest.
“But once the security staff moved in I was knocked to the floor and they had to drag me out. Some of the audience were shouting ‘scum’ at us.”
One man was arrested on suspicion of assault on a security guard and remains in police custody, Scotland Yard said.
Two more protesters were removed shortly after the interval.
The theatre, which is showing 37 of Shakespeare’s plays performed in 37 languages over six weeks as part of the Globe to Globe festival, had taken extra measures to minimise disruption during the controversial performances.
A spokeswoman said: “We were advised to hold airport-style security checks as the audience entered the theatre.
“We have been aware since January that some people disagree with the Habima company performing, so extra measures were necessary.”
The production will be performed again tonight.
The spokeswoman added: “Last night we did the best we could, the production didn’t have to stop, so we are happy with the way we dealt with the situation. We are ready for mark two tonight.”
The banners the protesters held up in the theatre read “Don’t support apartheid”.
In March nearly 40 high profile names from the theatre world signed an open letter expressing their dismay that the theatre had invited Habima to perform due to their involvement with Israeli settlements in Palestinian territory.
Mike Leigh, Emma Thompson and Dan Calder were among the signatories.
Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, co-ordinator with the Boycott Israel Network, said: “This campaign is not an attack on individual artists, we are not censoring the content of their work nor are we concerned about their ethnicity or the language they speak.
“This particular group is directly connected to the Israeli state, and whether it is avocados or art, we will boycott them.”
Ofel Neiman, 41, from Israel was among the pro-Palestine protesters outside the theatre before and during last night’s production.
He said: “We are making a stand today against an organisation which is directly involved in Israeli violations of human rights and international law.”
Before the performance around 100 pro-Israeli protesters also gathered outside the theatre.
Solicitor Melvin Berwald, 61, spokesman for the Zionist Federation said: “This is a wonderful cultural event and is about celebrating Jewish culture. The Palestinian company were here a few weeks ago, now it’s Habima’s turn”.
A Metropolitan police spokesman said: “I can confirm that officers arrested a man at 9.15pm on suspicion of assault on a security guard outside the Globe Theatre. He remains in custody.”