Shakespeare in Jericho echoes year of Arab strife

Mon Apr 23, 2012 11:51am EDT
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By Noah Browning

JERICHO, West Bank (Reuters) - A Shakespearean drama depicting the downfall of a prideful medieval king carried a modern-day message for a Palestinian audience that has watched upheaval play out in the Middle East.

The Ashtar theatre company, based in Ramallah in the occupied West Bank, delivered "Richard II" in the open-air courtyard of a ruined 8th-century palace in Jericho, one of the world's most ancient cities.

The production this month bridged the distance between high political drama of the past and present.

Framed in classical Arabic but attired in the military fatigues and the republican regalia of the Arab dictators ripped from power last year by deadly revolutions, the production probes the psyche of rulers doomed by the Arab Spring.

"Are you contented to resign the crown?" the rebelling Lord Bolingbroke, leaning impatiently on the already usurped throne, asks the King.

"Yes, no. No, yes," Richard stutters, igniting a roar of laughter from the local audience too familiar with similar jibes aimed at Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak and Yemen's Ali Abdullah Saleh in their waning days.

"Was this the face that, like the sun, used to make those who looked upon it blink?" the king then blubbers into a mirror, echoing the ranting self-praise of Libya's Muammar Gadaffi before revolt, as it did with the title character, led to his murder last year.