- Title: New play challenges taboos about women in Lebanon
- Date: 27th September 2016
- Summary: (SOUNDBITE) (Arabic) ACTRESS, MIRA SIDAWI, SAYING: "The play was hard and I faced difficulties deciding whether to take the role or not. The homosexual role in the Arab community has not been well discussed yet in public. We worked with director Lina Abyad on how to develop the dimensions of the character and how to allow her to freely express herself without feeling that she is the problem. She knows that she is a homosexual and she is okay with that. Her main problem is with the society that condemns and rejects her."
- Embargoed: 12th October 2016 12:28
- Keywords: Lebanon play theatre society taboo women's issues
- Location: BEIRUT, LEBANON
- City: BEIRUT, LEBANON
- Country: Lebanon
- Topics: Arts/Culture/Entertainment,Theatre
- Reuters ID: LVA00551CDXSL
- Aspect Ratio: 16:9
- Story Text:A bold new play in Lebanon is challenging the perception of a number of taboo subjects faced by women in the country and the Arab world.
'Kafas', the Arabic word for 'cage', opened in Beirut in September and is based on a book of the same name by writer Joumana Haddad.
Both Haddad and the play's director, Lina Abyad, are known for their work in Lebanese theatre tackling women's issues.
'Kafas' is set inside the waiting room of a gynaecologist, where five different women air their grievances.
The women touch on a range of issues that they encounter daily such as taboos about sexuality and body image, which they say make them feel like they are trapped in a cage.
"The play focusses on the suffering of five women, who are case studies and by no means representing all women. Each suffers from her own problem. Here is the overweight girl and how society looks at her, there is the lesbian and how society looks at her, there is the one wearing the niqab, there is the unmarried woman whom society looks down on and thinks that there must be something wrong with a woman who remains single, and then there is the sex worker who is the most free and at peace with herself amongst them all,'' said male actor Marcel Abu Chakra, who plays the role of a female sex worker.
One of the characters in the play openly talks about her sexuality, a subject generally considered a taboo in Lebanese society.
"The play was hard and I faced difficulties deciding whether to take the role or not. The homosexual role in the Arab community has not been well discussed yet in public. We worked with director Lina Abyad on how to develop the dimensions of the character and how to allow her to freely express herself without feeling that she is the problem. She knows that she is a homosexual and she is okay with that. Her main problem is with the society that condemns and rejects her,'' said Mira Sidawi, a Lebanese Palestinian actress.
In addition to the sex worker and the lesbian, there is also a character of a veiled woman who is unhappy to be wearing the niqab, a woman who is unhappy with her weight, as well as an unmarried woman who prefers to have married the wrong person than to remain single and suffering the judgement of society.
Each of these women is suffering in her own cage, director Abyad said.
"Sex and desire are very serious issues, suppression is a weapon of mass destruction for a woman, man, society and family. It's good to talk about them simply and frankly. If we reach a stage where we can talk about sex and our sex life as comfortably as we lie, that would be a good thing, '' she said.
One audience member said she was especially touched by the performance of the character of the unmarried woman.
"The character we see the most in the region is the unmarried, the single girl who should get married , and if she doesn't her life would be limited,'' said Tala.
While Abyad is not proposing a solution for these problems faced by women in Lebanon, she said she wanted to encourage society to be able to talk openly about sensitive issues.
"I think we should start talking about this subject in the Arab world, in a strong, frank and bold way and put our finger on the wound and say 'there is problem here'. At least to talk about it, even if we do not know how to solve it," she said.
The play is performed twice a week to a packed out audience at the Metro al Madina theatre in Beirut and is set to run until the end of November.
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