WRITTEN AND PERFORMED BY: Amer Hlehel
DIRECTOR AND TRANSLATOR: Amir Nizar Zuabi
DESIGNER: Ashraf Hanna
COMPOSER: Habib Shehadeh Hanna
LIGHTING DESIGNER: Muaz Jubeh
Supported by the A. M. Qattan Foundation
Translated poems are from “So What: New and Selected Poems, 1971-2005”, translated by Peter Cole, Yahya Hijazi, and Gabriel Levin (Copper Canyon Press, 2006), and used with the permission of the translators.
DURATION: 70 min.
PREMIERE: 2017 at the Kennedy Center, Washington DC, USA
LANGUAGE: English and Arab, with Lithuanian and English surtitles
RECOMMENDED AGE: 15+
DATE: 11, 12 October 2019, 19:00
VENUE: Arts Printing House, Black Hall (Šiltadaržio str. 6, Vilnius)
With this small pencil
I will draw the world
I will write the world
Taha Muhammad Ali
Based on from Adina Hoffman’s book “My Happiness Bears No Relation to Happiness” and inspired by the life of the Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali, this play is first and foremost a moving work that looks back over the artist’s life and work.
His poetry speaks of the experiences of refugees and of the 1.5 million Palestinians who remained in Israel after the 1948-1949 War of Independence. The play is more of a celebration of the triumph of life than a reflection of a poet’s tragedy. It reconstitutes this man’s life, which was full of hope in spite of losing his house, his love, and his friends during 50 difficult years.
Alone on stage, the Palestinian writer and performer Amer Hlehel gives a tour de force performance, bringing Taha back to life with extraordinary stage presence, full of emotion, humour and humanity, which is completely disarming.
The endless longing for the lost past – people, places, smells and sounds that are gone and will never be with us again is something universal, moving and easy to relate to. Taha creates his world with a pencil by writing poetry and through the poems as well as a fabulous actor Amer Hlehel the audience is transported to a village of Saffuriya in Palestine, which no longer exists. The play is full of joy of life and humour, which is juxtaposed to the dramatic turn of events in the poet’s life.
“During the process (of creation), I slowly began to feel that the right way to tell a poet’s story – considering that Taha was a great storyteller – is to let him tell us the story himself, and to let him tell it alone. I see poets as witnesses to human life, and they need an environment of loneliness to recreate the life they experience in the most economical form of art, poetry”.
Amer Hlehel is an actor, director and playwright based in Haifa. He has written several plays, including “Taha” (Best Production – Asian Arts Award – Edinburgh Fringe Festival 2017). He has appeared in numerous productions, including as Caliban in Shakespeare’s “The Tempest” in David Farr’s production at the Royal Shakespeare Company, Stratford-on-Avon; as Abu Altayib in “Goats” at The Royal Court Theatre, London.
Hlehel’s film work includes Palestinian films: “Personal Affairs”, “The Idol”, “The Time that Remains”, “Amreeka”, “Man Without a Cell Phone”, and the Golden Globe award-winning “Paradise Now”.
Amir Nizar Zuabi is without doubt one of the most influential directors in the Middle East today. His first production in Ramallah brought him immediate international success. Mono play Taha. A Poet’s Life has been around the world, introducing various countries to Taha’s poetry in its original language (translation from Arabic is in the subtitles).
Palestinian poet Taha Muhammad Ali was born in 1931 and grew up in Saffuriya, Galilee, Palestine. During the Arab-Israeli war in 1948 (the Nakba – the Palestinian Catastrophe), he was forced to flee with his family to Lebanon for a year; they snuck back, and since then he has lived in Nazareth, where he owns a souvenir shop. In the 1950s and 1960s, he sold souvenirs during the day to Christian pilgrims, and studied poetry at night. His formal education ended after fourth grade. Self-taught through his readings of classical Arabic literature, American fiction, and English poetry, Ali started writing poems in the 1970s. His collections in English include Never Mind: Twenty Poems and a Story (2000) and So What: New and Selected Poems (2006). In a direct, sometimes humorous, and often devastating style, Ali combines personal and political elements as he details both village life and the upheaval of conflict. He died in 2011, in Nazareth.