Taboo-breaking play is a big hit in Beirut
By Weedah Hamzah May 11, 2006, 16:09 GMT
Beirut - The Lebanese streets these days are full of gossip about a taboo-breaking play called Women's Talk, which has taken the Lebanese theatre by storm with sold-out performances and rave reviews.
The taboo-breaking play is the first Arabic version of the US hit play The Vagina Monologues.
'I was shocked when the play started by the language they used ... they called everything by its name so openly in Arabic,' one audience member said after watching the play.
In all countries in the Middle East, calling genital organs by their name is considered shameful, as most areas are ruled by strict social and religious traditions.
'I wanted to explore how the Lebanese audience would respond to The Vagina Monologues in Arabic. Well, actually I am surprised by the turnout,' said director and playwright Lina Khoury, 30, who holds a master of fine arts degree in theatre-directing from the University of Arkansas.
'My aim was not to shock people. I wanted it to encourage them to start talking openly about things. It was not about sex but about women's problems,' she said.
'I wanted to break this taboo of not talking about genital parts openly,' she added.
On stage, four talented young women have been luring crowds with 12 monologues breaking taboos on sex, venereal infections, menstrual syndrome, rape and violence against women.
Three of Khoury's monologues were adapted from US author Eve Ensler's award-winning play, which has been staged around the world and starred top names like Whoopi Goldberg.
'I wrote the other nine in Arabic after I interviewed several Lebanese women of all ages and backgrounds about their intimate and social problems,' Khoury added.
But Khoury revealed that her fiercest battle was to get her scripts past the censors in Lebanon.
'They kept me working and rewriting scripts for one year and a half. Then I decided to meet the culture minister and I explained my point of view to him and he understood,' Khoury said.
The censorship problem was not the only obstacle she faced: finding the actresses was also a challenge.
'Some of the actresses when they read the script backed out, but I kept looking until I found my main characters,' she said.
Khoury stressed that after every show she watched the audience talking and arguing about the play as they left the theatre - and this was a 'great pleasure' to her.
'On the first night, I could look at the people's faces while watching and hearing the language and I could hear them gasp in awe and then applaud. Today, I hear them applaud and laugh,' Khoury said.
Khoury's aim after Beirut is to take her play to other parts of the Arab world, but she said she had doubts that this would be an easy thing to do.© 2006 dpa - Deutsche Presse-Agentur