After several years of staging productions in Kuwait, One World Actors Center CIC (OWAC) is finally participating in Edinburgh’s internationally renowned festival- ‘Fringe’. It is the largest arts festival in the world and takes place every August for three weeks in Scotland’s capital city. For the first time in recent history, OWAC will be representing Kuwait with its international debut performance of an adaptation of ‘Antigone’- An Arabian Tragedy.
In a press conference, at the Crowne Plaza, on 18 May, with Alison Shan Price, CEO and Founder of OWAC and members of the cast, when asked what it feels like to be able to showcase OWAC’s talent on an international stage, being the first question to kick start the evening, Alison responded, to The Times Kuwait, with much gusto and enthusiasm.
She said that she is very excited to show the world what Kuwait is capable of after the overwhelming success ‘Antigone’ had in the country. “The combination of nationalities is a renaissance. I want to showcase Kuwait’s talent” said Price.
She believes that through her adaptation of the play, she can spread awareness in the world, erasing the notion that Kuwait is just a mere speck of dust, in the field of theatre, in the Gulf. The country has a past. Her aim is to help people relate to the struggles in Kuwait’s history.
Price said that in her version of the play, which is a blend of two performances –a Celtic English recount and a modern Arabic adaptation of the same play from earlier this year– both languages will fall in sync. Actors of both, Arabic and English casts will harmonize and merge the roles of their doppelgänger character to bring out the intensity of the play.
This according to Brian McLaughlin, English King Creon, is a “cultural influence and an interesting production”. When they first started out, he could not imagine that a combination of English and Arabic was even possible. Now however, with focused, intense training, it has become a reality. McLaughlin says, ”It is difficult, but we manage to fit perfectly. The same characters are different”.
Hamad Al Jenae, who plays the modern day Arabic King Creon, agrees delightedly. This is how Eleni Rebecca, Managing Director and daughter of Price, envisioned a link between centuries and awareness in the world, as McLaughlin said one actor cannot over shine the other “it is the emotion that is expressed”.
As to why they chose to produce ‘Antigone’, Price says, "Just like the guard Jonas from the play, Antigone is universal and timeless. It is happening over and over again in different parts of the world. It links for support, to draw attention to hardship and strife."
Dr. Frank Cannizzo, who plays the role of Captain Jonas, is the only actor to cross sides in the production. He says that his character represents the pivotal role of the military and it is the link of Antigone which Price refers to. The two realms of the play are staged because Price wanted to use what is familiar to help connect with the modern world, especially Kuwaiti locals. For example, the costumes of both the casts are entirely different. The English members are clad in rustic designs, whereas the modern Arabic cast don leathers and furs, costumes similar to those in the ‘Game of Thrones’, styles the 21st century can relate to.
Around August last year, Eleni Rebecca was in the UK and that is when the idea struck her. Ever since then, the yearlong process of production and publicity has been an enthralling experience for her and the team.
Michael Coppard, the media reporter, stresses not only the importance of media –the chorus, in the play but also, in today’s world. He said, the reason for the chorus is to create a link, “stir up the audience”. New media, in his opinion “brings news to the world, 300 years of Antigone”. He also says that ‘Antigone’ is a “very emotional story”, once the media takes over, it’s perception of the intended message changes your views.
Alison Price also spoke of her plans for the production after the Edinburgh festival. She mentioned that China is very interested in the company’s work. With passion and talents as great as this, she wants to take Antigone’s feeling, beliefs of dignity and family honor all around the world. Impressed that Sophocles is not a stranger in the desert sands, Price believes that she can change the world’s view of Kuwait.
Through different plotting, merging of lights and expression of different emotions with the assistance of stage manager Simon Abi Faisal, Price honors not only the women of the past, but also martyrdom in general.
The cast is a delight and wonderful to talk to. They are all extremely united in their enthusiasm and are very supportive of each other. The production, in the words of actor Yousef Al Nasser, is like “putting together pieces of music to form one score”. We look forward to the day the curtains rise on this outstanding production, truly a wonderful, touching work of art.
- Shanece- Ann D’mello.