Monday, October 22, 2012

Could Arafat dance? A dabke Henry V

Another Arab Shakespeare show in London: a Palestinian dabke dance adaptation of Henry V.  Yes, you heard that right.  This time by a Britain-based company, not one brought in for a festival.
The UK-based Palestinian dabke theatre group Al Zaytouna will present its new production entitled Unto the Breach, an adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V set in modern-day Palestine. The show, directed by Ahmed Masoud and co-directed by Hadjer Nacer, will be performed in London in November 2012. Al Zaytouna board member Souraya Ali gave the following interview ahead of the full production's debut.
 Read the Palestine Chronicle interview here.


 I would have thought of Arafat as more a King Lear figure, but here he is transparently allegorized as Henry V.  That takes some dance steps indeed:
Q- Although King Henry V, at one point in the original play, comes to the humble realisation that he is but a man; he is nevertheless the person responsible for rallying his men to victory. How does that reconcile with your show, given that: a- Yasser Arafat, who in the director's words is "the great figurehead of the Palestinian struggle", has died before managing to lead his people to liberty; and b- The Arab Spring, which you cite as among the inspirations for the show, had been sparked without any outstanding movement leaders?
Whilst the launch of Unto the Breach coincides with the anniversary of Yasser Arafat’s death, and there are parallels between our depiction of the Chairman and that of the late Palestinian leader, the show is not a historical account of his life. It does, however reflect on the value of a figurehead such as Arafat, in uniting people behind a common cause, enabling them to stand up for their rights and to stake their claim for sovereignty on a world stage. The show recognises this value but also acknowledges that the Palestinians have not yet achieved their objectives, and so the Chairman in our production dies without securing the liberty that he craved for his people. The achievement of victory is thus far less clear-cut in Unto the Breach than it is in Shakespeare’s Henry V. 
In the show, the Chairman’s death leaves the Palestinians without a leader, and so the onus is on them to once again rise up and claim their rights.  The idea that this is possible – that people can bring about change if they unite and call for it with a common voice - flowed strongly from the Arab Spring, and inspired us to create the show.  Although we recognise that any such struggle is fraught with difficulties, it is this idea of hope that continues to drive us forwards.

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