Editor/Publisher, Bina Sharif

Tuesday, June 16, 2009


       ARTS & IDEAS
Adapted and directed by
Sulayman Al-Bassam

This Richard III: played with gusto and confidence by, (Fayez Kazak who also plays duke of Gloucester) has no deformity at all.  Instead he has an extra ability of being a first rate comedian.  Audience members, especially Arabic speaking laugh loud and often at this 21st Century adaptation of Richard III with cell phones, Tv monitors, text messages, Instant 
coverage of all the carnage which Richard bestow upon his relatives and people.
If any one dared to make Richard III: a historical tragedy into a funny farce about the functioning and mostly non functioning of the leaderships of the Middle East, Its Sulayman Al- Bassam, the director and the leader of Sabab, an International touring theater.

His approach in adapting the tragedy of Richard III: into an Arab tragedy is appropriate knowing what's been going on in the Persian Gulf.  Sulayman Al-Bassam seems amused by
projecting the basic flaws of the kingdoms and cultures, corruption, deceit, greed and the hunger for power at the expense of many lives.

Richard III: When at the end  desperately seeking a horse which he would gladly exchange for his kingdom, we all know that all that power and greed was not worth it....And we feel  bad for the fallen king to say the least but in this production one tends to laugh and enjoy more not because the end is not tragic but it had been handled throughout in such a funny manner that
one is almost amused at the folly of most of the Arab leaders who acts first and think later or hardly think at all about their cruelty.

This production's most beautiful effect is that its spoken in Melodious Arabic language.
Just to hear the sound of Azan, (The Arabic and Muslim call to prayers in the major American theater) is mesmerizing.  And the live band creating the melody of lament is sadly thrilling.

Fayez Kazak who plays both parts, Duke of Gloucester and king Richard III:  has enormous
energy and sense of fun and he moves fast and furious and often smiles as If he is Immensely enjoying his ultimate tragedy, but actually calling this play, An Arab Tragedy, he is smiling at the failed Arab leaders and their destructive  ever lasting Un-democratic rules.
Since the actor is having fun, we  the audience are more than willing to join him.

The play doesn't have the opening  famous monologue  delivered by Richard, Its actually 
Queen Margaret (Amal Omram) who  having been abandoned from power has the fury of  madness, curses and spit fire in the opening prologue and that's a very effective Image and a real unexpected change.  She often appears with the same power of fury and revenge throughout the evening.  Amal Omram is wonderful in that role.

As I mentioned earlier that this production has all the elements of modern technology and the character Buckingham played by Raymond el-Hosni is the Chief of staff of Image maker of Richard.  Some of the current events  projected by video simulcasts and events narrated by reporters who make funny faces and grin constantly as if they were all in a circus...
This kind of innovation in  Shakespear's tragedy can be annoying but here the effect is hilarious.

The Music here is a big part of this beautiful production.  The Ominous echo of the music
is everlasting and is the witness of the passage of turmoils in the Arab lands.
The stage is empty except some colorful cushions which the actors themselves bring on stage and sit on them and remove while leaving....This minimal staging gives the feeling of the vastness of desserts of empty hope and corrupt power.

Verses from the Qoran are recited many times and it has a blissful, soothing, exotic and alien effect on the psyche.

But underneath all the fun and the humor and the jokes, there is an Ominous tragedy lurking around which is not only of a Person such as Richard III:  but of the World.  We are constantly aware that something is not right with the World and its leaders and its Inhabitants and its religions and its false fundamentalist's rigid and narrow out look and destructive tendencies
which has kept the planet on a dangerous edge....

There is a constant message of peace in this production as the Qoutes from Qoran are being recited and numerous times the Islamic greeting,  ASSALAAM-O-ALYIKUM and WA-LYEIKUM SALAAM, meaning, "Peace be upon you." "And peace be upon you too,"  is uttered
but then the killing rampage also goes on after the message of peace....
Its Ironic if people and the leaders of this production only heard themselves clearly while uttering  the word, "Allah."  which actually was heard at least a 100 times during the show, they might stop the slaughter. But the message of peace...
was beautiful, soothing, comforting and at the same time disturbing because the events unfolding in the play were disturbing and eventually  deadly.

Beside the tragic events which had to be dealt with, after all the title of the play is Richard III:
An Arab Tragedy, the production was a lot of Un-expected fun and the sound of the spoken Arabic was just amazing, haunting and poetic.
Mr. Bassam and his whole ensemble including the musicians have done a brilliant job.

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