In Kuwait, cultural censorship returns to the scene


The winter was mild for I meddle, Sulayman Al-Bassam’s latest work: the reinterpretation of the Medea myth by the Kuwaiti-British author was awarded in Carthage (Tunisia) and Cairo, and applauded in Beirut. But the show is unlucky in Kuwait: canceled in the spring of 2020, in the midst of a coronavirus hurricane, it did not have the right to be presented at the gigantic Sheikh-Jaber-Al-Ahmad Cultural Center (JACC) -inaugurated in 2016-. in particular, it includes a theater-opera room with 2,000 seats, for the three nights planned for the end of March.

On its site, the institution, however, praises the country’s child, “Internationally renowned playwright and director.” At the end of the line, the latter denounces an implicit prohibition: “Complications piled up. When the act becomes impossible, it is censorship without saying so. What good is such a structure, which has also cost an exorbitant sum, if national artists are not produced there? » In the small emirate, where expression is freer than among its Gulf neighbors, the debate on creative freedom and the role of state cultural platforms has been seized by the press.

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Abundant show, where it is about the intimate and the collective, divorce, racism, devouring ambition and rebellion, I meddle it is a powerful salvo against conformism and authoritarianism. The latter assumes the trappings of a perverted power, where infinite cynicism mixes corruption and the use of religion for sociopolitical purposes. Franco-Syrian actress Hala Omran plays an indomitable Medea; Sulayman Al-Bassam alternately plays Jason, Creon, and himself as the author.

The man of the theater revisits works from the classical repertoire –as, earlier in his career, those of Shakespeare– adapting them to the contemporary situation. “Sulayman does a very critical job politically, analyzes Kuwaiti academic and liberal activist Ibtihal Al-Khatib. It represents Medea, a woman condemned as a criminal since ancient Greece, as a refugee, who loses her identity and her femininity in the face of politics. It is a strong and resonant story. »

A mocking court verdict

Sulayman Al-Bassam did not give up. The play was presented on Sunday, March 27, by Dar Al-Athar Al-Islamiyyah, a private cultural organization headed by Sheikha Hussah Al-Sabah, a patron of the arts and a member of the ruling family.

But before playing with this protector, she had to be visited the day before by a committee of censors sent by an official body. Pressured not to rock the boat by moralizers, the playwright pushed the slider on insolence during this evening, mocking a recent verdict that acquitted defendants (including a former prime minister) in a resounding case of embezzlement of public funds. . An applauded improvisation.

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