Interview with Ashtar director on "Palestinian" Richard II

Thanks to Marvin Carlson for pointing out this intelligent interview with Iman Aoun, artistic director of the Ashtar theatre group in Palestine, done by Sarah Irving at Electronic Intifada. The conversation gets into issues of language (classical vs. colloquial), interpretation, local reception, and normalization vs. BDS.  Here’s one interesting exchange:
SI: Some of the other Shakespeare plays being performed in Arabic during Globe 2 Globe — such as an Iraqi version of Romeo and Juliet set in Baghdad — are very obviously trying to take Shakespeare’s drama and find specific Arab settings for it. Is this what Ashtar has tried to do with Richard II? Or have you left it more to audience to see for itself the modern message that the play might have?

IA: I think we have attempted to do the second. We have tried to be very faithful to the story and to the text itself. We did not add to it, we did not change it. We tried to put it in a modern setting in terms of the costume and flavor, very subtly, you cannot really see one place in our performance, but you could sense, if you want, many places. It is anywhere there is political turmoil, the greed of power. Yes, at some point you could see a Palestinian dress onstage, or you could see people dressed in Middle Eastern outfits, but it does not particularly say that this is happening here in Palestine or in a particular Arab city. We want the audience to concentrate and think.

“Fidelity” discourse aside (and we can easily see that as the counterswing of a certain pendulum), it sounds really worth seeing. One of the peculiarities of the Globe festival is that companies are asked to create these plays essentially on speculation — for just a few UK performances and maybe one or two back home — and then hope someone picks it up.  It would be so great if this play, since it appears to be really good and not just ethnographically curious, could tour to the US somewhere. Are you listening, Chicago?

One thought on “Interview with Ashtar director on "Palestinian" Richard II

  1. Hi,many thanks for commenting on this article, and for your kind words. The London production was excellent; even an extremely rigorous and critical Arabic-lit-crit friend who came to see it was very impressed – especially by Sami Metwasi's excellent take on the character of Richard. Well worth seeing for anyone in Oxford, UK on May 7th and at any future performances…Sarah Irving

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