Syrian theatre explores male-female relationships

February 2009 -

"Our work focuses on the social rituals and religious ceremonies in Arabian society, especially the specific role that men play and that is expected of women", explains Noura Murad, founder and artistic director of the Syrian Leish Troupe. Leish is Arabic for 'why'. Leish Troupe is one of the few independent and experimental theatre groups in Syria. Its performances have already won a variety of international awards.


"We are currently working on the Identity series. This series explores the influence of rituals in the formation of identity. Our approach is interdisciplinary: dancers, actors and musicians collectively study the various rituals in a series of workshops prior to the performance." The first performance in the Identity series, Once they die they realize, is about man's greatest fear: the fear of dying. The funeral ritual has central focus. The performance consists of two parts: one part is open to an audience of females only and is performed by only female actors and dancers who portray the rituals assigned to women during a funeral.

The male audience sees only the other part of the performance: the part that presents the rituals that men go through during a funeral. With this division, Leish Troupe is holding a mirror to the audience: "Our society uses every instrument to de-sexualise public and religious places, for example by separating men and women or by covering the female body. Nevertheless, these methods, like undesired interaction between men and women outside the marriage, have simply made the public and religious atmospheres more sexualised, especially the female body", Murad explains.

That focus on gender-specific codes, symbols and attitudes is continued by Murad in her newest performance: Congratulations. Using the marriage ceremony as premise, Murad hopes to further analyse the roles assigned to men and women. Congratulations will premiere in Damascus in the summer of 2009; hopefully the production will then also find its way to the Netherlands.