Friday, April 27, 2012

Shakespeare relates quite well to present day Arab revolts and upheavals

Shakespeare provides a contemporary Arab audience nice perspectives of  present day realities. Two examples:
Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad.Picture taken during a rehearsal. (AFP)

 Iraq, Romeo and Juliet
Romeo is Shia, Juliet Sunni, and they must contend not only with warring families but a country torn by conflict and sectarian strife: this is the story of “Romeo and Juliet in Baghdad”.
Pistols have replaced swords and some characters wear traditional dishdashas, abayas and keffiyah scarves, but the changes go far beyond props and costumes. One of the final scenes combines the general horror of suicide bombings in Iraq with a reference to a specific attack on October 31, 2010, in which militants killed 44 worshippers and two priests in Our Lady of Salvation church in Baghdad. Romeo flees to the church after killing the hot-headed Tybalt, and is later joined there by Juliet.
In the play’s biggest departure from Shakespeare’s original story, Juliet’s spurned suitor Paris enters the church wearing a belt of explosives and blows himself up, killing Romeo and Juliet.
Monadhil Daood, 52, who adapted and directed the play, said that Paris is a member of Al-Qaeda and is not an Iraqi – a reference to foreign fighters who came to Iraq after the 2003 US-led invasion.

Richard II by the Palestinian Ashtar Theatre. (Photo Globe Theatre)

Palestine, Richard II
The Ashtar theatre company, based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, delivered "Richard II" in the open-air courtyard of a ruined 8th-century palace in Jericho. In classical Arabic but attired in the military fatigues and the republican regalia of the Arab dictators ripped from power last year.
"Are you contented to resign the crown?" the rebelling Lord Bolingbroke, leaning impatiently on the already usurped throne, asks the King.
"Yes, no. No, yes," Richard stutters, igniting a roar of laughter from the local audience too familiar with similar jibes aimed at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh in their waning days.

Organizers said the Palestinian company's production was not about the Arab Spring per se. The original script and staging were left largely untouched, but a few changes rendered its modern references clear, as when a crowd of masked, flag-waving protesters storms the palace and shouts, "the people want Bolingbroke!" a variant of the slogan "the people want the fall of the regime" chanted in public squares from Tunis to Manama.

The troupe is set to perform next month in London's Globe Theatre.

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