(From Le Figaro’s Jerusalem correspondent, 7/6; above, excerpts from the play.)
The wind shook the trees this morning and then it rained. But the heavy showers have now been forgotten and have given way to a pure blue sky with a bright sun reigning high above it. People are queuing up in front of the white building and you can feel the subtle excitement of those who await long hoped-for beginnings. There are handsome older men with tanned faces, giggling young girls, chatty teens, short-veiled mothers with babies, and then it’s time for all of them to enter the hall which will witness this Arab-language production of Sophocles’ Antigone.
Eight actors and actresses have been working on the play for several weeks with director Adel Hakim, who is also co-director of the Théâtre des Quartiers d’Ivry in France. Born in Cairo, he speaks Arab perfectly which means that he is able to work naturally with the artists at the Palestine National Theater – PNT.
A similar collaboration happened three years ago when Nabil El Azan, who runs La Barraca, an independent theater in Paris, produced Quebecan playright Carole Frechette’s ‘Le Collier d'Hélène’ – ‘Helen’s Necklace’ – with the same theater.
Antigone conveys a deeply moving resonance and meaning to the ears and hearts of this Palestinian audience of course, and it has the same effect on the actors. “We have the feeling that Sophocles is referring to us” says Yasmin Hamaar, a lawyer who has swapped her wig and robe for the costumes of Ismene. Shaden Salim plays a sylphlike Antigone and, like Yasmin, she was chosen for her role by Adel Hakim after a long series of auditions. She too is unnerved by the pertinent proximity of Antigone, a work which was written over twenty centuries ago.