In this 1984 musical comedy, produced for the Festival of Portable Theatre in Rabat, an Arab prince hires a British-trained theater troupe to stage Hamlet to “catch the conscience” of his usurping stepfather/uncle, who has married his mother after his father’s death. A shadowy figure named Abu Fawanees (“Lantern Man”) haunts the proceedings, offering commentary on the role of art in society. The opening musical number, featuring a traditional oud ensemble, asserts that rulers are “just like blind men: helpless without their sticks.” After many mishaps, the prince’s effort to entrap his stepfather fails, resulting in the deaths of many characters and an inextricable confusion between the frame play and the inset play. Finally the actors overpower their tyrannical director, claiming the autonomy of art and refusing to stage didactic political theatre any more.
Author: Nader Omran (Jordanian)