Edward Albee or Edward Al-Bee?
by Tanjil Rashid
" At some point during the performance, the Cairo audience who flocked to see who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf last month will have heard the play’s best-known repartee, when Martha screams at George: “If you existed, I’d divorce you.” Isn’t this pretty much what Israelis and Arabs have been saying to each other for a long time?
Looking for Middle Eastern resonances in a classic work of American theatre can result in many such tenuous observations. The play’s author, Edward Albee, looms alongside the likes of Arthur Miller and Eugene O’Neill as one of the towering figures in American drama, but – after a successful run of his most famous play at Cairo’s prestigious Gomhouria Theatre – it is worth asking what exactly the Middle East sees in this purveyor of absurdist Americana.
Something in Albee’s oeuvre certainly appeals to Arab audiences; no anomaly was February’s production, one in a long line of Egyptian encounters with Albee dating from the 60s. Last month’s production was in fact preceded by one at the Sawy Culture Wheel back in September; thus, in the last year Cairo has seen more professional productions of plays by Edward Albee than London, and is not far behind New York. Indeed, so enthralled has Egypt been even by Albee’s obscurer works it at first seems – fittingly for one frequently mentioned in the same breath as Beckett and Ionesco – absurd. For example, 1970 saw a performance of Albee’s arcane play Everything in the Garden, which ended up making Egyptian director Mahmoud Haridy’s name; his production was so acclaimed it was recorded by Egyptian state television and broadcast several times. "
Published by New York Times
Mahmoud Haridy is M A Haridy