Thursday, March 31, 2011

Hamlet and Hamlet satire postponed in Egypt

A protest strike by young theatre people (in Arabic) has postponed the presentation at Cairo's high-profile Tal`ia (Vanguard) Theatre of three plays including Hamlet and The Dance of the Scorpions, Mahmoud Aboudoma's 1989 postmodern political Hamlet offshoot.  The three were apparently scheduled to run for a full week -- which is a big deal since experimental and youth (or other amateur) plays typically only get to play for one or two nights.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Obama depicted as Hamlet on Libya

It is predictable that, even as Qadhafi is typed as Richard III or any of a number of other Shakespearean villains, Barack Obama gets described as Hamlet.

From Hip Hop Republican, 3/22/11
A few highlights:
  • Newsweek in a piece called The Big Dither:  "The president has been more Hamlet than Macbeth since the beginning of the revolutionary crisis that has swept the desert lands of North Africa and the Middle East. To act or not to act? That has been the question. The results of his indecision have been unhappy."
  • Victor Davis Hanson generalizes the lack-of-leadership thing to Obama's presidency as a whole: "Hamlet couldn't quite ever act in time — given all the ambiguities that such a sensitive prince first had to sort out. In the meantime, a lot of bodies piled up through his indecision and hesitancy."
  • This caricature from Crystal Wright's piece at Hip Hop Republican.
  • And of course the Right Side News has to weigh in: "We have a 'Hamlet on the Potomac' in our Oval Office.  If you listen closely you can hear Obama twisting himself into knots asking the wrenching question:  'To lead… or NOT to lead?' (Our apologies to Bill Shakespeare!)"
  • Former CFR chairman Leslie Gelb begs to differ (and engages in some Shakespeare interpretation in the process).
  • And Saul Landau in Counterpunch goes even further, denouncing the whole Hamlet role as a trap into which Obama has fallen.

It's interesting to see the Anglo-American view of Hamlet as hesitator, quite at odds with the typical Arab view of Hamlet as revolutionary martyr/hero, getting a tiny bit of play in the Arabic press through translations of articles by American pundits.  Here's the one by Victor Davis Hanson (in Arabic, in the Gulf-based al-Bayan) and here's the Leslie Gelb piece on hypocrisy.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Beirut conference: "Shakespeare's Imagined Orient"

More information on the "Shakespeare's Imagined Orient" conference at AUB next month.  Conference schedule to be posted soon.  Meanwhile abstracts of plenary talks are up, and registration is here.  If you are in Beirut, please come check it out!

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Globe's young-adult Macbeth in UAE

Take a break from watching a bloody dictator fight to the death against foreign-supported rebels on satellite TV... to watch one do it on stage.

London's Globe Theatre educational project (Globe Education's Playing Shakespeare with Deutsche Bank) is bringing its "educational" version of Macbeth to the UAE.  The performance of the show, created specifically for teenagers, was last night at the Abu Dhabi Theatre (would love to hear about audience reception from anyone who was there) and on March 27 and 28 at Al Madinat Theatre, Dubai.

Comparing Qadhafi to Richard III

As foreign news coverage becomes unavoidable, Shakespeare becomes our contemporary once again.  Here are a couple of examples; I'm sure there will be others as events develop.

From The Independent on March 14:
I arrived at the theatre for a performance of Richard III last week with an image from that evening's television news in my head. A line of men lay on a road in Libya. Their hands were pinned to their sides and their noses were flat against the tarmac. But the camera panned low. You could see the sheer terror in their eyes as a beefy Gaddafi loyalist droned a litany of places where his men had killed protesters and where they yet would kill more. The men on the road are probably dead now.
Richard III is a play about a man of violence who maintains himself in office through a regime of unremitting brutality. It was written around 1590 but it is a mark of Shakespeare's evergreen genius that the dynamics it describes are still being played out in Libya, and elsewhere, today.

From something called Economicpopulist, back on Feb 15:
Like Richard III before the Battle of Bosworth Field, Gaddafi watches supporters vanish from top to the bottom of his army. His response has been no less brutal than Richard's, with assaults on his own people by hired thugs that he bought in neighboring countries. It will not end well for him, but it will end soon.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Richard III in Kurdish northern Iraq?

Salah Qasab, one of Iraq's best-known directors Shakespeare (Hamlet, The Tempest, Macbeth, etc.), is talking about staging an adaptation of Richard III in Irbil, Sulaymaniye, and other venues in the Kurdish region of Iraq, if he can get enough support from Kurdistan's ministry of culture.  A few details in his interview with Al-Sabah al-Jadid newspaper (in Arabic). 
But apparently he has had this plan for a while.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Al-Bassam on Speaker's Progress in The Guardian

Sulayman Al-Bassam has a little article in The Guardian on how his current show, a very pessimistic frame story incorporating an Arab adaptation of Twelfth Night,
has changed in production because of recent events in Tunisia, Egypt, etc.
More photos from the production previews here.
The show is coming to BAM in New York next fall.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Some comic relief

Random funny cartoon, just to show that EVERYTHING is related to everything else, and Shakespeare even more so, here:

Monday, March 14, 2011

Afghan Shakespeare in Globe's series

And it's Corinne Jaber, the French actress who directed Love's Labour's Lost in Kabul in 2005 and 2006, who will be doing the Globe's Dari-language Comedy of Errors.  For more on Corinne's Afghan ventures and her recent residency at BU:

Friday, March 11, 2011

Revolutionary Egypt: a "To Be Or Not To Be" moment

A couple of samples from online articles that quote Hamlet to underscore the urgency of events in Egypt.

From an alarmist FoxNews (of course) interview with Egyptian tycoon Naguib Sawiris, who actually supported the Tahrir protesters and even bought them tents and blankets: 

When the protests began, Sawiris, a Christian billionaire who owns everything from hotels and construction companies to cell phone and investment interests, was out of the country. He chose to return, unlike other businessmen who have already fled.
“I came back because this was not a revolution of the Muslim Brotherhood.
This was the young people of Egypt doing what we failed to do … There is not a single other businessman who has supported it because it’s very dangerous for their interests; but the country is in a position to be or not to be,” he said.

Toward the end of a long, passionate article  by Mariam Saad in something called The Peninsula: 
Generations grew up within the armed forces and were trained to obey the government and surrender to its resolutions. However, if the situation deteriorates and becomes desperate, the challenge poses itself to the individual; to be or not to be? How will the situation resolve itself?
You can easily find many more of these in English and especially in Arabic.

To some ears, even the protesters' chants had a Shakespearean ring to them! Al-Hayat column by Abdel Ghani Talis, in Arabic, here.