Ramallah Theatre Company performs Shakespeare in Arabic

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The Ashtar Theatre Company will perform a version of Shakespeare’s iconic Richard II as part of Dubai’s annual shopping festival, reported the National on Wednesday.

The theatre group, established in 1991 as a youth theatre, branched out in the West Bank and Gaza and eventually built a base in Ramallah in 1995.

Richard II tells the tale of England’s 14th century King, however the Ashtar Theatre adaptation will see the actors performing the play in Arabic with English explanation.

The Globe, a replica of Shakespeare’s original theatre in London, produced 37 performances in 37 different languages as part of the London 2012 Cultural Olympiad.

The production company “Globe to Globe,” recruited the Ahstar Theatre group to produce an Arabic rendition of the play for a multi-national audience.

The show has since been performed in London, Oxford and Palestine. The theatre group has also been invited to perform the play at Moroccan and Algerian theatre festivals.

Artistic Director of the Ashtar Theatre group, Iman Ayoun, said that the company are known for exploring socio-political issues which is why they came to adapt and perform Richard II.

Ayoun who is part of the 12 actor cast said that “the story is relevant because we share and learn from history. Shakespeare was an amazing writer and the play, one of the strongest historically, talks of how ultimate power can corrupt individuals and nations.”

“It’s encouraging for people to be artistically and culturally involved in fighting for human rights, Palestine is occupied so there are many issues to discuss. Theatre breaks boundaries and creates harmony between people,” she added.

The Arabic adaptation of the play was overseen by Irish director and playwright Conall Morrison who has previously produced worked for the English National Opera and The Royal Shakespeare Company.

He said that translating Shakespeare’s work proved to be a difficult task, especially for someone who does not speak Arabic.

Morrison said that “the language is at an invigorated level, I knew the play well and we all sat together translating back and forth between English and Arabic. It was fascinating because the result was this wonderfully forensic way of knowing the play and the actors took complete ownership.”

Non-Arabic speakers who attend the showing of Richard II will be provided with a scene-by-scene synopsis of the performance.