Mohamed Idriss’ Othello deals with issues of integration and racism
By Iheb Al-Tounisi for Magharebia in Tunis — 09/03/07
The play "Othello" or "Najmat Nahar" (Day Star) as Director Mohamed Idriss calls it, is a story of the devotion of a young white woman, Desdemona, to the dark-skinned General Othello whom she marries in secret.
In addition to the personal issues of love, jealousy and death which arise in the play, Idriss’s "Othello" addresses many burning issues in modern Maghreb society, such as the difficulty of assimilating into a new society where dominance, exclusion and racism are present.
"Othello touches on the issue of integration which is often discussed these days in electoral campaigns such the one taking place in France," Idriss told Magharebia. "Borders are closed to civilisations and cultures … [I]t has become hard to move around from one place to another. We find all these problems in this play. All these crimes which are inflicted on humanity leave us helpless: rejection of the other, the struggle between civilisations, and the dominant civilisation which now imposes its policy," he added.
On choosing Shakespeare’s text, "We basically wanted to salute the pioneers of Tunisian theatre who initially performed this unforgettable piece by following in the footsteps of one of the iconic figures of Arab theatre, the great master of the founding generation of Tunisian theatre, Suleiman Qardahi Efendi, who died in Tunisia during his theatrical tour in 1909," Idriss told the state-owned news agency Tunis Afrique Press (TAP).
Actor Jamal Sasi feels that although human issues appear to change throughout different eras, they actually remain the same. "In this play we focus on contemporary issues, such as racism. Othello is black and the other characters are white, and therefore they try to exclude him. With regard to the war in Cyprus, we currently see the whole world in unending wars," he said.
Many who have been to see the play have expressed their admiration of Idriss’s ability to use a classic play to shed light on contemporary issues. Some however, felt that Idriss’s adaptation used an excessive amount of visual arts such as dance and acrobatics, which detracted from the play’s content. "Unfortunately, I do not have substantial resources, like an acting troupe. That’s why I depend on what is available and this affects the actors’ performance and the play in general," Idriss said.
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