Go see this, y’all! Go on the night when my friend (and Paris Review poetry editor) Robyn Creswell is doing the post-show talkback. Here’s Al-Bassam’s latest (I hope!) synopsis:
BAM Presents THE SPEAKER’S PROGRESS, 10/6-8
A condemned 1960s staging of Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night has become the focal point for political resistance blogs and underground social network movements. The state, eager to suppress this dangerous mixture of nostalgia and dissent, commissions The Speaker, a once-radical theater producer now turned regime apologist, to mount a forensic reconstruction and public denunciation of the work. As The Speaker and his group of nonacting volunteers delve deeper into the “reconstruction” they find themselves increasingly engaged with the material they are supposed to be condemning. They soon discover-in the act of performance and the growing participation of their audience-a solidarity that transforms the gathering itself into an unequivocal act of defiance towards the state.
The Speaker’s Progress is the final part of writer, director, and performer Sulayman Al- Bassam’s Arab Shakespeare Trilogy; the second, Richard III: An Arab Tragedy, was presented at BAM’s Muslim Voices festival (Spring 2009). Created along with a core team of actors and artists from across the Arab world and Europe, this unique body of work charts a decade of Arab and Western political and social upheaval following the events of 9/11 to the current leaps for reform made by millions across the region.
Swear to Allah, it’s not theatre! ArtsEmerson in Boston has officially announced its 2011-12 season, and Sulayman Al-Bassam’s pseudo-post-but-actually-meta-theatrical The Speaker’s Progress, a dark and jam-packed take on Twelfth Night, is on the schedule for October 12-16. Details and a video clip here.
Sulayman has put up a few clips of Speaker’s Progress, with surtitles. Some version of this show is coming to BAM and Boston’s ArtsEmerson this fall.
(Sorry I can’t quite get the video to be the right width – working on it. Link here.)
Amid everything happening in Syria, students at the Higher Institute for Dramatic Arts put on a production of Twelfth Night (of all things) earlier this month. `Ajaj Salim directed.
From the few pictures available it does not look like political allusions were the order of the day. Too bad: one could have a lot of fun with Malvolio.
The show then traveled to Sharjah, where it received warm reviews in Al-Bayan and Al-Ittihad (both in Arabic). Here’s the press release with more background info.
Sulayman Al-Bassam has a little article in The Guardian on how his current show, a very pessimistic frame story incorporating an Arab adaptation of Twelfth Night,
has changed in production because of recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, etc.
More photos from the production previews here.
The show is coming to BAM in New York next fall.
I just came across the Damascus Shakespeare Festival, and apparently it aspires to be annual. However, this year’s performance of Twelfth Night by the Birmingham Theatre troupe (visiting from England) seems to have left the Syrian audience cold. The review quotes a Syrian actress named Yara Sabri wishing the show had had more music and dancing etc. to “contribute to the arts education” of a less elite audience. No surprise there. If ever there were a problematic play for cross-cultural presentation, surely Twelfth Night must be it.
TV report here (in Arabic) on recent Shakespeare Festival held in Damascus, including Birmingham Theatre’s performance of Twelfth Night.