(Michael Billington's article ran in the Guardian, 2/11.)

11 and 12

Barbican, London 

Style, for some people, is a complex way of saying simple things. For Peter Brook, it has latterly been a simple way of saying complex things. And in this resonant African fable, adapted by Marie-Hélène Estienne from the work of Amadou Hampâté Bâ and here played in English, you see Brook at his best. This is a piece of calm, quiet, meditative theatre that never hectors or raises its voice, but that addresses profound spiritual and political issues.


The story is set in French colonial West Africa in the 1930s. And at its heart lies a bitter doctrinal dispute among the Sufi community about whether a particular prayer should be said 11 or 12 times. It's an argument, stoked by the interventionist French, that leads to fierce tribal divisions and violent bloodshed. And when the spiritual leader, Tierno Bokar, seeks to resolve the issue by siding with the oppositional Chérif Hamallah, he finds himself ostracised by his family and followers and left to a lonely death.


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