Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Abu Hamlet and Najm are Alive

A report on a conventional/unconventional Syrian playlet in the (Abu Dhabi) National

Haven't seen it -- sounds kind of reminiscent of Moroccan playwright Nabyl Lahlou's "Ophelie N'Est Pas Morte" (1968)... but maybe funnier?

Recently, an empty shop under renovation in downtown Cairo became an impromptu theatre for an unusual performance. An audience of about 12 people sat on mismatched chairs. A few well-placed scarves and portraits of Shakespeare and the Syrian satirical writer Mohammed al Maghout formed the backdrop. Two identical young men suddenly appeared and began reciting overlapping Shakespeare monologues in Arabic.

The Malas twins, Ahmed and Mohammed, are 26-year-old actors and playwrights. Their play Melodrama, originally performed in their bedroom in Damascus, has become an underground sensation in Syria. During a visit to Cairo, they organised three performances.

In the play, Shakespeare quickly devolves into an argument between the two characters, the grey-haired Abu Hamlet (played by Mohammed) and the boisterous young Nejm, or “Star” (played by Ahmed). They are aspiring actors living in shared quarters who spend their time recounting disappointments, venting frustrations and indulging in fantasies about making it big. As their names suggest, the characters represent different generations of the Syrian acting community – the older committed to the theatre, and the younger enamoured with television and cinema.

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