|Ashtar Theatre receive a rapturous applause|
On Saturday night Ashtar Theatre, a Palestinian theatre group formed in Jerusalem in 1991 but now based in Ramallah, performed Shakespeare's Richard II at Shakespeare's Globe as part of the 'Globe to Globe' festival, with all 37 Shakespeare plays performed in 37 languages.
Ashtar Theatre was established by two Palestinian actors - Edward Muallem and Iman Aoun - and is a non-profit organisation dedicated to promoting commitment to change, training, performing and bringing shows to marginalised audiences, who may not be able to come to their theatre in Ramallah. Ashtar are perhaps best known for their production The Gaza Monologues, which told the real stories of children from Gaza following the Israeli attack on the Gaza Strip in December 2008.
Against a backdrop of political discourse surrounding the Globe's decision to allow the Israeli theatre company Habima to participate in the festival, despite its record of involvement with illegally-built Israeli settlements in the occupied Palestinian territories, the significance of a Palestinian theatre company being invited to perform was sadly somewhat overlooked.
For non-arabic speakers, the delivery of lines, facial expressions and music effectively created the mood in each scene and enabled the audience to grasp easily what action was taking place. Heavy emotion was contrasted well with light-hearted touches of humour, particularly emanating from the laughable, vain King when he interacted with the audience of 'peasants' watching from the 'cattle area'.
One particularly moving scene between Richard II (played by Sami Metwasi) and his Queen (Bayan Shbib) effectively portrayed their anguish, despair and love for one another in a way which did not require an understanding of the words spoken to feel the emotions of the fateful pair. The King's demise at the end of the play was handled in a way which almost made you pity the narcissistic, petty Richard.
|My beautiful souvenir from the play!|