A new theatre company Manara, founded by award winning playwrights Hassan Abdulrazzak and Hannah Khalil, has been launched to champion the work of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) playwrights and present classic and contemporary plays from the region to Western audiences. They are joined by theatre-maker Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso. Manara means beacon in Arabic.

Manara will be curating a series of play readings as part of Shubbak 2019, the biannual Middle Eastern arts festival on Saturday 13 July 2019. The readings of new works by Ahlam, Zoukak, Sahar Assaf and Wael Kadour will take place at the Gate Theatre, Notting Hill, London. These new plays are all compelling works that challenge stereotypes and prejudices about Arab stories.

Hassan Abdulrazzak and Hannah Khalil commented:
“There is no Arab theatre company in the UK solely promoting the work of Arab writers, and as artists in this diaspora, we wanted to fill the void. Our purpose with Manara is to find and promote work by MENA writers, both new and classic plays, to advocate and amplify the amazing work and writers who are already here. In addition to the play readings at Shubbak festival – of which there will be more – our primary ambition is to produce an archive of classic Arabic plays in translation. We want to say to UK audience and theatre-makers alike: Look at this wealth of wonderful work – get stuck in!”

Manara Theatre at Shubbak Festival 2019
Play readings at the Gate Theatre, Saturday 13 July

Egypt | UK
YOU BURY ME by Ahlam @12.00pm
You Bury Me is about six young people living in ‘post-Arab Spring’ Cairo. The old police state is propped up by a new, much harsher, military regime. This is a story about people longing to live how they want and love who they choose. This is a story about a generation who fought and who lost. This is a story of Cairo and those desperate to rebuild it. Ahlam is an Egyptian playwright writing in English.

The Jokers visits those marginal characters in society who are alienated by their otherness. Using drag and larger than life characters, Zoukak provocatively asks what constitutes an outcast. At once vilified, but equally worshipped, these figures are idols and victims at the same time. They are a foil onto which society projects their dreams and anxieties.

Two Heads and a Hand is based on texts by Shakespeare. Can revenge ever be justified? What is the difference between violence and brutality? Numbed by brutality shown in the media, how far can theatre go to portray it on-stage? With bolshy irreverence and slapstick humour, Zoukak digs out key moments from Shakespeare plays and mashes them up into a collage for our current conflicts.

Zoukak is Lamia Abi Azar, Omar Abi Azar, Mohamad Hamdan, Junaid Sarrieddeen and Maya Zbib. As a collective they create and tour work and run one of Beirut’s liveliest venues.

NO DEMAND, NO SUPPLY by Sahar Assaf @ 3pm
In April 2016 Lebanese police broke up a sex-trafficking ring after four women successfully escaped from the Chez Maurice nightclub. They and over 70 other Syrian women had been lured to Lebanon with promises of employment and safety. They were incarcerated as prostitutes and subjected to violent exploitation and degradation on an unprecedented scale.

Sahar Assaf’s verbatim play combines accounts from four of the women with court records and documentary material to brutally expose the economics, politics and human cost of the sex trade.

Sahar Assaf is a Beirut-based actor and director and co-founder of Tahweel Ensemble Theatre. She is assistant professor of theatre at American University of Beirut and founder of AUB’s Theater Initiative.

Syria | France
Chronicles of a City We Never Knew pitches violence and love against each other by telling a love story between two young women in Damascus in 2011.

The play charts the transformation of the revolutionary movement in Syria from peaceful to armed conflict. Where does violence reside in seemingly peaceful choices, and where does love reside in violent ones?

Wael Kadour graduated at Damascus Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in 2006 and is now based in Paris. Chronicles of A City is his fifth play and received its premiere at La Filature, Scène Nationale in Mulhouse in January 2019.

For more information contact Francesca Maguire 07747 605971 / franmaguire10@outlook.com

Manara Theatre
Manara is a new theatre company that champions the work of Middle Eastern and North African (MENA) playwrights and presents classic and contemporary plays from the region to Western audiences. It's the brainchild of Award-winning playwrights Hassan Abdulrazzak and Hannah Khalil. Manara means beacon in Arabic. www.manaratheatre.com

Hannah Khalil (Director)
A writer of Palestinian-Irish heritage, Hannah's stage plays include A Museum in Baghdad for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Interference for National Theatre of Scotland, Scenes from 68* Years - shortlisted for the James Tait Black award, (Arcola Theatre), The Scar Test (Soho theatre, London), Bitterenders (ReOrient Festival, San Francisco) and Plan D (Tristan Bates Theatre, Meyer Whitworth Award shortlisted). Hannah's radio plays include Last of the Pearl Fishers and The Deportation Room for BBC Radio 4. Hannah was the Bush Theatre London’s writer on attachment in 2016/7 as part of the first Project 2036 cohort. She was the recipient of the Arab British Centre’s Award for Culture in 2017. Her work is published in the UK, USA and Canada.

Hassan Abdulrazzak (Director)
Hassan Abdulrazzak’s plays include Baghdad Wedding (Soho Theatre, 2007, Belvoir St Theatre, 2009, Akvarious productions 2010), The Prophet (Gate theatre, 2012), Love, Bombs and Apples (Arcola Theatre, 2016 and UK tour. Golden Thread Productions, San Francisco, 2018, Kennedy Centre, Washington DC 2019) and And Here I Am (Arcola Theatre, 2017 and UK and Middle East tour). He is currently commissioned by the Royal Shakespeare Company and Synergy Theatre. He is the recipient of George Devine, Meyer-Whitworth, Pearson theatre awards as well as the Arab British Centre Award for Culture. Love, Bombs and Apples won the Bay Area theatre award for outstanding production.

Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso (Director)
Taghrid Choucair-Vizoso is co-founder and co-director of At Home in Gaza and London. She is also a theatre-maker, producer, and facilitator with a practice in contemporary work in or about the Middle East. Since 2012, she has been developing intercultural and cross-cultural work with performance artists and playwrights in the UK, Lebanon, Syria, and Palestine. She creates and performs work within the context of cultural resistance and as an associate artist of Kazzum, leads programmes of workshops with young refugees and asylum seekers across the UK. She produced and co-programmed the 2018 AWAN - Arab Women Artists Now Festival in London. In July 2018, she joined the Shubbak team as the festival's Programme & Engagement Producer.

Diyan Zora (Associate Director)
Diyan is an Iraqi born London based theatre director. She is currently associate director to Alexander Zeldin at the National Theatre, with whom she has worked for the last two years. Her first play as director was a bilingual English-Arabic Othello, which sold out a three week run at Barons Court Theatre. She has since then directed new plays by Hassan Abdulrazzak, Martin Crimp, Hannah Khalil, Fiona Doyle and Silva Semerciyan. She was associate director on The Ferryman in the West End. She was also associate on the National Theatre European tour of Love, which performed at the Autumn festival at Théâtre de L'Odéon, Paris. Diyan has also assisted at the Young Vic, Royal Court and Arcola theatres. Three projects she has worked on have been filmed for the BBC as part of performance live. She has a degree in law with English literature, and a master’s in human rights, with a focus on women's rights in Iraq. She had her first poem published at the age of 15 and has since then been published in various anthologies.

Saturday 13 July 2019
Manara Theatre presents play readings as part of the Shubbak Festival 2019
Gate Theatre, 11 Pembridge Road, Notting Hill Gate, London W11 3HQ
12pm, You Bury Me by Ahlam
2pm, Two heads and a Hand & the Jokers by Zoukak
3pm, No Demand, No Supply by Sahar Assaf
4.15pm, Chronicles of a City We Never Knew by Wael Kadour

Ticket price: £7.50 individual play reading (£20 for full day ticket).
Box Office: 020 7229 0706