THE AL-HAMLET SUMMIT
Pleasance Dome, Edinburgh
August, 2002

**** Fascinating update of Shakespeare to the modern Middle East

London and Kuwait-based writer/director Sulayman Al Bassam's adaptationloses focus towards the end, but is remarkable overall.

Shakespeare's story is rewritten in contemporary Middle Eastern political rhetoric, set in an unnamed Arab state and staged as if in a negotiation chamber, complete with nameplates, microphones and mini-video cameras on the desks of the six main characters. The plot is pretty much the same, with the addition of a shadowy female international arms dealer who acts as provocateuse to the other characters. In this country, rebellion against the usurping Claudius's régime takes the form of adopting strict Islamism, and yes, Ophelia in the end becomes a suicide bomber.

It works extremely well until Hamlet's return from exile in England. At this point, the analogies break down, and too many plot strands generational conflict, westernised secularism and venality versus Islamic fundamentalism, commercial and political manipulation by external forces, the Israeli dimension crowd in to be tied up satisfactorily. But it remains one of the most intriguing and intelligent shows I have seen this year. It will shortly visit Cairo.

Written for divento.com

Copyright © Ian Shuttleworth; all rights reserved.

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