A Scottish «Damascus» tours the Middle-East
babelmed - 14/03/2009
The British Council is organizing a regional tour of the British play (Damascus), written by David Greig, during March and April of this year in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and the Palestinian territories.
The British Council is organizing a regional tour of the British play (Damascus), written by David Greig, during March and April of this year in Syria, Lebanon, Jordan, Egypt, Tunisia, and the Palestinian territoriesThe tour is also produced by the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, and Michael Edwards and Carole Winter.
This theatrical tour is organized within the framework of a broader British Council project that aims to explore the growing interest of UK theatre in the Arab culture, while providing an opportunity for the Arab audience to view plays that address their image in the UK and to create platforms for commenting on and debating about these plays directly with the UK theatre makers, critics and journalists who have and interest in the region, and their Arab counterpart.
The tour will involve performances of the play followed by open discussion forums and dialogues between theatre makers, critics, and Arab journalists and their British counterparts in the UK who are interested in the Arab region. Some of the names involved in these dialogues are Al Fadel Al Jaiby the Tunisian Director; Jawwad Al Asady the Iraqi Director who lives in Lebanon; the Lebanese Director Paul Matar; the Egyptian Critic Nehad Seleiha, Dr. Hanan Kassab Hassan; Dr. Mary Elias from Syria; the author Raja Shehada and the researcher and novelist Adaneya AlShebly from Palestine, in addition to young directors and writers such as Omar Abu Seda from Syria; Laila Soliman from Egypt. Some of the UK participants include journalist Sarfraz Manzoor from The Guardian; theatrical critic Joyce McMillan from The Scotsman newspaper; critic David Adams; director Roxana Silbert; author and translator Penny Black, in addition to Philip Howard and David, the director and the playwright of (Damascus).
(Damascus) is set in the foyer of a small hotel. The play highlights the impact of pre-conceptions and stereotypes in identifying how people interact and relate to one another through Paul’s character who seeks to market his new book on teaching English in Damascus and his daily interactions with the nationals, their heated discussions and his walks in this fascinating old city alleys.
Describing the experience that lead him to writing (Damascus), Greig says: ’Damascus came about as an unexpected by product of the artistic exchange I have been privileged to have with young theatre makers in the Middle East, particularly in Syria and Palestine since 2000. During that time I have led a number of playwriting workshops in the region facilitated and encouraged by, amongst other organizations, The British Council. He adds ’whatever the Arab writers learned – the workshops ended up teaching me an enormous amount about the complexities of relations between the west and the Arab world. In the end, despite my best efforts to avoid it, I felt compelled to write a play to explore those complexities’.
David Greig is a central figure in a new generation of Scottish playwrights who emerged in the 1990s and have contributed to the renaissance of Scottish playwriting. This generation is best known for having presented contemporary Scotland to the world by blending its powerful sense of Scotland’s history with a profound care for its future. Since the production of his first professional play in 1992, Greig has received remarkable interest in Britain and Europe. His plays have been performed widely in Scotland, translated and produced in almost every country in Europe, United States, Canada and Australia.
Laila Hourani, the Regional Manager for Creativity and Mutuality in the British Council says: ’I think the Arab theatre audiences have a right to watch the works that address their image in the UK, and to directly communicate with the authors of these works. Facilitated by the British Council, this interaction deepens the experience of the British playwrights and reinforces their interest in the Arab culture through engaging in a real and effective dialogue with the Arab theatre audience and theatre makers’.
Damascus was performed for the first time in the Traverse Theatre in Edinburgh, Scotland in July 2007 to a great acclaim and was very well received as one of the most important new plays that challenge misconceptions about Arabs in the UK.
The play will be performed in Lebanon on March 17 and 18 at Masrah Al Madina and will be followed by a 30-minute open discussion with the audience and the UK cast.