- Title: Shakespeare's "King Lear" premieres in Arabic in Beirut
- Date: 7th December 2016
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) LEAD ROLE ROGER ASSAF SAYING: "What did you see in King Lear? Didn't you see an excessive and divided people, arguing and killing each other? What do you want to be more identical to the reality we are living? And all this is because of the king, because of the one who is in charge of governing. With his careless way of working and his selfishness, the country was destroyed. This is what happened and this is why we say that Shakespeare is very contemporary."
- Embargoed: 22nd December 2016 10:48
- Keywords: Lebanon theatre Shakespeare King Lear play
- Location: BEIRUT, LEBANON
- City: BEIRUT, LEBANON
- Country: Lebanon
- Reuters ID: LVA0065BVTRO5
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text: Four hundred years after his death, William Shakespeare is still speaking to audiences across the world and now, for the first time, in colloquial Lebanese Arabic.
And the Lebanese actors performing "King Lear" for Beirut theatregoers say the play - which discusses the nature of power - could have been written for their own troubled times.
"Although the play was written around 1602 - it still speaks to our present day, the present world, and not only Lebanon, due to the fact that everyone feels like the world is on the verge of an abyss," said Sahar Assaf, the Lebanese actress and co-director of the play.
"There is chaos and madness very similar to the chaos and madness in the play," she said.
The play, staged in Beirut's Al-Madina Theatre, is produced by the American University of Beirut and London's award-winning Faction Theatre Company.
Faction's Rachel Valentine Smith, who speaks no Arabic, confessed she was apprehensive before rehearsing alongside fellow director Assaf. But the cast quickly dispelled her fears.
"It was an incredible experience and I think what made it really easy was Shakespeare," she said. "It actually felt very natural, surprisingly natural, to go through the process.''
Roger Assaf, a leading light of Lebanon's theatre world, took the lead role.
"What did you see in King Lear? Didn't you see an excessive and divided people, arguing and killing each other? What do you want more identical to the reality we are living? And all this is because of the king, because of the one who is in charge of governing - with his careless way of working and his selfishness - the country was destroyed. This is what happened and this is why we say that Shakespeare is very contemporary," he said when asked about the relevance of King Lear's story nowadays.
The play is performed in the Lebanese dialect for the first time, according to the American University of Beirut, a fact that has proven popular with local audiences.
"I think a lot of people know and read King Lear in English and have barely understood it, now they understand it right. It is a very nice and strong idea, and the actors were great," said Lina Jaroudi after watching a performance.
King Lear, which opened on December 1st, plays every Thursday till Sunday at Al-Madina until December 18.
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