Tuesday, July 10, 2012

T. Rashid on London theatre's "Arab Turn"

"Once, Shakespeare’s Arabs were ciphers for his voice – like countless Middle Eastern politicians, those Arabs were puppets at an Englishman’s mercy. But at the World Shakespeare Festival, Shakespeare himself became a cipher for Arab voices." Thus muses Tanjil Rashid at The White Review site - fortunately complicating the parallel structure as soon as he has proposed it.

Moving beyond Shakespeare, Tanjil asks what I take to be the main question (military overtones and all): "Why does British theatre now have its sights set on the Arab world?"  The answer is both obvious and fascinating, yielding an endless series of individual artists' and organizers' reasons, preoccupations, collaborations, stories. I take his grand conclusion to be overblown, but the prospect of less "crusty" cultural exchanges is always a nice one.

Oh and I'm looking forward to the podcast mentioned in the author note; it was fortuitous that Tanjil and I were able to meet up in Cairo last month, in the leafy garden of the Dutch Institute library no less, to record that.

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