Friday, 3 March 2006

Kalila Wa Dimna - The Mirror For Princes

I missed writing about something that makes me think & stay in front of the PC for a long while till I feel that my eyes are numb, sooo with out any further delay, this is my review of the play.

Kalila Wa Dimna - The Mirror For Princes
The 3rd & last show for it in Kuwait

The time frame of historical events ::

Through my simple knowledge of the Islamic history I agree with the general frame of events & assure that it was not broken nor experienced any harmful additions, the events that the play was based on are details that the writer took a peek in & turned into a meaningful mirror just like the plays name & aim.

True, the Abbasids (العباسيون) built their Caliphate on blood, it was a very bad take over from the previous Caliphate holders The Umayyad (الأمويون). Their ruling was built on a revolution that killed who ever refused to obey. Regardless of the fact that many historical writers pay a lot of respect to how the Abbasids made the Islamic culture rise! In the end it was built on blood not faith.

I liked very much that the author of the play did not touch the main historical events & he was able to reach out with his idea to the viewer without harming history, he used it to build on it several messages. The first & foremost one that caught my admiration is the title.

The message ::

The first & foremost message that caught my admiration was the title.

Kalila Wa Dimna - The Mirror For Princes

The whole play is a big mirror, at that time Kalila Wa Dimna was not only a book of stories, the stories were opinions of a writer, of the political events around him, a space for him to run from confronting death by saying what he thought of the things happening around him "behind the walls of the ruling palace & away from the public eye". A space to speak up & raise a mirror in his hand to show the Calipha what is happening around him & what is he missing out among all the gold diggers & honest believers.

At that time Ibn Al-Muqaf'a told these tales & wrote them to make up a verbal mirror for the Calipha to see through it. In this play Suliman Al-Bassam painted a huge mirror for us to see our history, compare it with the present & ACT. We have a choice we either look at the past & say "poor them" or realize that the past is nothing more than a mirror that reflects US & actually do something.

The love, faith & Islam eaters ::

Personally I think the most dangerous gift one can posses is the ability to take over a pure white painting & shed blood on it to form a long ladder for him to climb on & get to his personal needs. Those needs/dreams could be wealth, power or any other life related pleasures & that person is not thinking of what's beyond his life nor what awaits him in the next life! Of course the effect of all what he is doing on other people's lives is not in consideration.

The play presented that, showed how cruel the gold diggers that climb on Islam & surround the rulers are like, to just reach a certain position or posses a hand or a land full of money!

A lot of people at the time & the current time posses this ability to be something they do not believe in, just for the sake of their own pleasure, in the process they DELIBERATELY twist the facts & the regulations of Islam "or could be any other religion or believe too!" to take what they want. They by time try to take the place of The Holy Book & build on it what ever they wish, no matter how contradicted they might become "since they too sometimes want to cross the line of the Islamic regulations" & may go far to the extent of calling them selves "the light of Allah on earth"!!

Who ever tries not to join the league is called a ZINDIQ. A word that is very harsh & hard to be said to any one unless he fulfills a lot of conditions, and as expected the conditions became flexible for the rulers "at the time" to manipulate & create a Zindiq out of every person that resembles a stone in their way.

Faith is the most important thing that made Ibn Al-Muqaf'a stay alive, he had seen death but decided to fight it with his words, empowered by the love of Asia who asked for his help through love & showed him her faith in his tales, pushed him to present them to the Calipha in order to make a mirror to reflect what is going around him.

Of all what is said about him, he was presented as a mutual viewer of Islam, he liked the religion but was not a Muslim. The fact that Islam can be a religion that others admire was wonderful, IF ONLY it was let to be as it is & not as what people in power wished Islam to be like. However some historical writers claim he got into Islam just for the sake of staying alive, never the less history is all about integrity! Depending on how much the authors of history books have of it then we can be sure of their tales. Comparing pro & against "history events" writers is the safest way to at least get an un-biased opinion. Still he did become a Muslim :} so again the frame is not broken.

His love for Asia led him to his death eventually & even without being able to touch her although he became a Muslim to be able to be her husband. Asia which later on in the path of time gets married to Abu-Muslim who was a killing puppet that gave the Abbasids a firm grip against rebels.

Abu-Muslim realized that he was a toy very late & hated the fact that he killed a lot of Muslims & yes he thought that Abbasids would count him as one of them, not realizing the Arabic hidden code of marriage! You can never be one of them unless your blood is the same as theirs. He did not see the "NEVER" before trying to reach the descendants of the prophet in marriage, the student tried to outcome the teacher but he paid his life for such a an act.

Ibd Al-Muqaf'a ::

Ibn Al-Muqaf'a lost his hand among the fight to be close & tell the Calipha his tales of the jackal & the Pig. He who once spoke about the jackals got killed by them. All he needed is an honest & pure heart to hear him, they who climb around the golden chairs will not let him, its a survivor fight & the intellectual lost it. Will we support them? Or let the jackals run around freely? Its our choice.

His character represented the thinkers, writers & artists. What the play & historical events are saying is: will you murder us or let us live?

They trough this play & in history look at the mirror & tell us: see how life would be if we are to be killed! Do you want that history to live again? Is it right?

It is a rare opportunity to be able to see what is the outcome of our actions since fate is a mystery! We as common people should make the best of it & surelly the Rulers need this mirror too since they have the power to do something too but on a wider, more stronger scale.

The mirror ::

In the end darkness shed on all, free thinkers died. The whole play is a mirror of our time & as we all know the famous saying (التاريخ يعيد نفسه) "history repeats it self" is presented, at that moment where we realize this fact we have a choice to be a played back piece of a historical tape or get the best of it & step away from the errors other had fallen into?

Al-Bassam made the final entrance in an amazing way. The boards that kept moving around the play gathered around at the end. The lights were shining the theatre side & the audience had no lights on them

"we were in the DARK"

So the mirror he held in his hand reflected ALL what was written on the see through boards all along the play & then with the magic of the lighting people, the theatre was dark & we had the lights focused on us

"now we are in the LIGHT"

And then that same mirror he held in his hands with the EXACT same movement, now reflects US....

The see through boards ::

along the play there were big see through boards that had tires under them to be able to move them along the play. At the beginning the Jackal drew the map of the Abbasids ruling space & noted the important cities that were discussed in the play. Then it began to be filled with writings! Names of characters & interrelations between them also important events, by the time the play came to its end that board held every piece of history that came into that period & was worth noting in the play, it was used well. To me it was perfect because it resembled the tiny note I keep "or sometimes my mobile" to write down important things. A mobile history note that at times inside the play was used in a smart way to reflect events related to certain people & was used in an impressive way in the end when Al-Bassam held the mirror.

The boards kept us posted & in full alert, personally I kept looking at it every once & a while :}

Surtitles ::

I tried to keep looking at them & felt that Arabic needed more! Sadly I only attended the play once & was dazzled by the events I did not have the will to pick up my note to write down the things I noticed, but remember one I think when Abu-Muslim was introduces they stated listing the names of countries & then there was a misorder of countries in Arabic? I am not sure but DEFINITELY even if its sure, its a tiny note about the surroundings but not the actual plot or acting of the play :}

Complexity produced from simplicity ::

Now the only thing I feel guilty for not mentioning so far is the visual & sound effects that were used & the cast. The visual & sound effects were perfect! Simple not too impressive YET used in the right way. If more effects were inserted into the play the whole plot would have been lost to the admiration of these effects, & yes the play kept me waiting for what's next! Although I read about it before I came in but still the effects impressed me.

The way that the curtains were placed & the actors came in was creative too it gave me a feeling that I'm into this huge sound system that one instrument & tune is played on one speaker then ur attention moves to the other with a new sound comming form it! The attention of the audience was taken from one side to the other of the theature, at moments I felt that I was watching a tennis game :P but surely not over rated :} it was just the right amount!

The cast, they truly made a great afford, almost every actor in the play had more than two roles to play, either obvious or hidden in a costume, let a side the running inside to add make up & clothes then getting back out to the stage in an amazing time!

Commitment & devotion is what I loved about them. Their acting abilities are amazing too they felt the characters although each one had to deal with multiple characters at this play & that it self was a testimony for them that they are VERY GOOD actors.

Cheers to the actors & the stage effects people.

The Writer & Director ::

To Mr.Suliman Al-Bassam, I did not have the ability to talk to you in person when I attended the play but till that time of meeting you one day, I would like through these lines to say that you are a true artist. You have a great message to deliver to the world. The creativity I saw in that play truly states that you have something to give & with it mark the theatre history in Kuwait & hopefully in the world. Great work! Keep it up.

Had a lot of FUN ::

The last time I attended a play in Kuwait was in the 90's a play called (انتخبوا أم علي) which after I thought that I was not missing much :} although the play could have given a lot of use to our community but this is an other issue!

That day I realized that I am missing out on a lot, that there are things that are worth giving time to attend, that there is still hope in the theatre & we do have someone with a great message to display to the world & he is graceful enough to show it to the world. When we reached to the brake in the middle of the show I regretted that I did not attend Hamlet nor melting the Ice, next time Insha'a Allah I will be there for sure & will not miss out on any thing.

From this extended post you can see how much I loved it & how much I had to say about it :} That night I enjoyed my time a lot. Thank you Jackie & MEWHO! for posting the announcement, and other thank you for the Director/Writer & the whole cast of the play.

Last but not least here is the official web site for Zaoum Theatre Company which has a lot of content & is worth reading, personally I am enjoying the scripts available at the site & tonight will read "Trading - المقايضة"


Ms.Baker said...

Dear Chillgirl,

Thanks for your wonderful efforts in writing this review of the play. You did a great job :) I greatly love the theatre, in both English and Arabic ( I have been to a few performances in Cairo, as well as a great many over the years since I was a child in the US and UK)
While I was not able to attend, I greatly wish I had as a result of you, Flamingoliya, and Jackie's posts.

When I was a child, there was such a huge flurry of cultural activity in Kuwait - theater, ballet, opera, concerts, exhibitions of art. Both Arab and Western, as well as Oriental. How I long for those days sometimes, and I am so glad to see that there is now more attention being given slowly but surely to the arts, after years of it's being almost non-existent in Kuwait :)

Great job, Chillgirl!


Q80-Chill Girl said...


Thank you soooooooooo much :D ur more than welcome & ur comment gave me a great deal of satisfaction since I spent about 4 hours writing, re-writing, remembering, then editing my badleyaat to write this post & i tried to grasp every bit of the play because i truelly did like it very much!

On a personal scale I felt happy that there are people intrested in culture, I came into this new group of our comunity that i wish for it to grow more & support such wonderful works of art, I will get involved more & more especially that I found a treasure to fill the biggest hole in my mind "which is history" so it is promessing :} lets hope it grows

Jacqui said...


Seriously Bravo! I hope you don't mind but I am going to be printing your post and archiving it along with other reviews to show the Sheikha and to email them back to Sulayman al Bassam to give him the reaction of this day's generation and what they thought of the play. I am glad that the majority enjoyed this play seriously I am since I loved it even more!

I had the chance to speak to the actor who played Ibn Muqafa'a (Nathan) and told him I was there for the 3rd time, and he is like "Oh my GOD! I bet you were bored" or something like that and indeed I wasn't because they re-invented themselves EVERY NIGHT!

So I love that you loved it, next event is going to be a Greek Musical Event coming soon but I'll mention it in time :P

Q80-Chill Girl said...

Hello jakooooo :}

Glad u liked the review, feel free to copy it to any where in the world & I will send an e-mail to Mr.Suliman through Zaoum's site because he & the cast too deserve to be encouraged. Thank you for reminding me to include Sheikha Hussa in my list of thank you's since she moved this event :}

& thank you again J :)

Jacqui said...

Yay, however I was planning on gathering all sorts of criticism and emailing them to Sulayman al Bassam, but thanks alot! :)

It's a shame we didn't meet up :r

Q80-Chill Girl said...

Jacqi :D

Go for it I think its a great idea & it is nice of you to do so :}

& totally agree @!@ we should have at least had a simple hi, hello, how are you & some 7ash ;p over there, next time am e-mailling every one that can be found in such an event :D

SAB said...

dear chillgirl,

I am Sulayman Al-Bassam. I received your review of Kalila wa Dimna, The mirror for princes" today from a friend in the theatre company.
I am very pleased you enjoyed my work and thankyou for writing such a thoughtful response.
All the best,

Q80-Chill Girl said...

SAB aka "Sulayman Al-Bassam"

Its truelly a pleasure to know that you liked the review & i'm glad it reached you & I did e-mail it to the e-mail mentioned in ZOUM's site &&&&& am glad u read it :D

Appreciate ur comment :D thx