Sunday, 13 May 2012

"The Speaker's Progress" play by al Bassam in Kuwait

Slaiman al Bassam strikes again with a new version of a Shakespearian tale in a modern arab setting. In al Shamiyah theatre in Kuwait, the play has been delivered for 4 days. The plot is a complex remake of a 1963 movie in a hypothetical repressive regime. The main subject is about the lack of expression at all levels in such repression; the theatre and the acting business are the first to suffer from a regimented form of what is really permitted.

Al Bassam, a Kuwaiti director, started this production last year at the brink of the "Arab spring" when Tunisia, Egypt and others had started their public revolts and were undergoing a major transformation. At that time, the wind of freedom was too sweet, too strong and it was difficult to see any returning back to a repressive mode. The play was read and seen as part of history that we needed to remind ourselves could exist.

A year later, al Bassam and his team continues the presentation with as much conviction and passion. Costumes are all thought off with details. Sound is as crisp and relevant. Yet the spectator cannot but pause and reflect.

In a local newspaper "al Qabass", an article was written on friday 11th of may 2012 to comment on the play: nothing concerning acting, drama, plot, setting. The only subject that mattered was how the "National Council for Culture and Arts" was divided into two groups : the commission for censorship on theatre was not satisfied with the play while the administration for the National council reassured of the play's validity.

The irony lies here: the lady in charge was confirming that the play is against the law on plays and theatre since the director did not take note of any changes demanded of him from the censorship commission.
As if the "Speaker's Progress" was continuing in real life, and needed to be documented in the papers.
Same words used here and there: the law, the interference of minders, the officials, the devious and un-compliant director, the responsibility of presenting a play that is not in full accordance with the law or the understanding of the commission

Bravo for al Bassam and his team on giving a true sense of reality. Great work, fantastic performance, and the plot goes on : freedom is fragile in the swirls of a repressive hurricane.

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