AN ISRAELI government-funded theatre group whose Edinburgh Festival Fringe show was cancelled after protests has staged an open air performance in the capital.

Hip hop opera, The City, by Incubator Theatre, was cancelled last week after pro-Palestinian campaigners picketed the Cow Barn Underbelly, in Bristo Square, to protest against the ongoing Israeli attacks on Gaza.

The venue owners pulled the plug on the controversial show last week, saying the protests were disrupting other venues.

Director Arik Eshet said the cancellation had been "traumatic" for the performers, and the move eroded freedom of speech at the world's biggest arts festival.

After failing to find an alternative venue, yesterday the actors performed the opera outdoors in the Meadows area of Edinburgh, for free, to an audience of around 20 people.

Paddy Cuthbert, spokesman for Incubator Theatre, said: "It went really well. Everyone enjoyed it. It's a great show, not political in any way.

"We're still looking for another venue, although the protesters have warned they will turn up wherever we go. But we're still hopeful of getting somewhere.

"The actors are here to put on a show, that's what they're here for. They're not political in any way. This is an arts festival and it should be about art."

More than 1,460 Palestinians, mostly civilians, including many children, have died in the latest conflict in Gaza, along with 63 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

An open letter in July from high-profile members of the Scottish arts community, including Makar Liz Lochhead and author and artist Alasdair Grey urged that the show be called off.

The letter, also signed by such figures as play- wright David Greig and theatre directors Ben Harrison, Graham McLaren and Cora Bissett, called for the Underbelly venue to reconsider staging the group's show.

The letter said: "The current, brutal assault by Israel upon the people of Gaza, which is an appalling collective punishment, underlines the seriousness of your error in co-operating with a company which is funded by the Ministry of Culture of the state of Israel."

The Edinburgh Festival Fringe began its 67th year on Friday with its largest programme to date, featuring 3,193 shows in 299 venues.

Organisers are hopeful of breaking the two million ticket sales mark.

It runs until August 25.