This theatrical dance performance explodes with originality and verve, exploring contemporary Arab struggles through the medium of Shakespeare
It is not a mere round of Scrabble. Shakespeare, Palestine, Arab Spring, dance and resistance do indeed all feature in Unto the Breach, the latest production from Al Zaytouna, Britain’s most preeminent Palestinian dance theatre troupe. On Friday 9 and Saturday 10 November, the show’s premiere will be brought to the intimacy of North London’s Artdepot venue.
This daring modern-day adaptation of Shakespeare’s Henry V plunges into one of the playwright’s most politically charged scripts in quest of themes which transcend to today’s Palestine: invasion, injustice and struggle.
Unique both in substance and style, the piece unwinds its twists and turns through a sleek coalescence between Palestinian folk hoof (‘dabke’), contemporary dance and accompanying visuals. It is all the more atmospheric when the cast moves to traditional local music wed to beats of Dave Randall, an artist from British electronic bands Faithless and Slovo, who has composed exclusive material for Al-Zaytouna. Shakespearian chorus does not dominate the lines either; the performance also boasts some verses of Palestinian poetry by virtuoso Mahmoud Darwich.
The performance isn’t, however, an abstract non-decipherable narrative with which audiences flounder to relate, says Ahmed Masoud, the Palestinian author, playwright and director. One needn’t be familiar with Henry V’s original plot or the history of the Palestinian-Israeli conflict to tune in, as “it is made accessible to all audiences in the spirit of Shakespearian universality”.
Moreover, the popular uprisings which shook many Middle Eastern regimes since early last year have also claimed a space in this dance theatre show. As a nascent process, the Arab Spring may have stirred the world’s attention elsewhere in the region, but, as Hadjer Nacer, the emerging, talented Algerian co-director pointed out, “it is also the weak versus the mighty for Palestinians. They find themselves in the shoes of defeated Charles VI of France”.
Unto the Breach is much more than another entry in London’s 2012 cultural Olympiad. If you happen to be curious about how a dalliance could emanate between dance, theatre and resistance, the show may be your distinguished initiation.
Tickets can be bought in advance through the website or on the night.
Featured image from: http://electronicintifada.net/content/uk-dance-troupe-al-zaytouna-retell-shakespeare-through-dabke/11847
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