Last Updated: Sun Oct 17, 2010 04:56 am (KSA) 01:56 am (GMT)

Tunisian play broaches Arab world schizophrenia

A scene from "Hobb Story" which tackles sexual relations outside marriage
A scene from "Hobb Story" which tackles sexual relations outside marriage

A controversial Tunisian play that tackles love and sexual relationships in the Arab world has made a sounding success both locally and in several European countries.

"Hobb Story… Ouvrir par ici", which means “Love Story… Opens here,” has witnessed an unprecedented turnout and has so far attracted more than 20,000 viewers for its daring approach to issues regarded as taboos in the Arab world, on top of which is the relationship between men and women with a special focus on the sexual dimension.

The play offers a mixture of theatre, music, documentary cinema and sex education as well as live testimonies of men and women (one of them veiled) about their love life and sexual experiences.

One of the women is an adaptation of a character from the novel Banat al-Riyadh (Girls of Riyadh) by Saudi writer Rajaa al-Sanea.

Performers in the play recite a variety of texts that deal with marriage and sexual relations like sayings by prophet Mohammed and his companions as well as articles from the law and police reports that document sexual crimes.

Tackling taboos

 Arab and Muslim societies suffer from schizophrenia because they look like they are liberated from sex issues while the exact opposite is true 
Director Lotfi Achour

"Hobb Story" tackles sensitive issues that are generally considered taboo in the Arab world Director of the play Lotfi Achour.

“The play does so in a very daring manner without any sugarcoating,” he told Al Arabiya. “I do not agree with critiques that said the play was shocking or that sexual insinuations were too intense.”

In response to critics that slammed the play’s explicit approach to relationships regarded as illicit in the Muslim world, Achour stated that sex outside marriage has become a reality in Tunisia and other Arab countries and that is why it cannot be overlooked.

“The problem with Arabs is that they do not face their reality. Arab and Muslim societies suffer from schizophrenia because they look like they are liberated from sex issues while the exact opposite is true.”

Regarding the fact that he tackled sex in countries other than Tunisia like Lebanon, Egypt, Algeria, and Saudi Arabia, Achour said that this was his duty.

“As an artist, I can’t only tackle problems of my country, but I have to include other Arab countries as well as the entire world.”

Politicization of religion

 We did not discuss taboos because they attract more people 
Actress and playwright Anissa Daoud

Actress Anissa Daoud, who wrote the play, denied allegations that the topic of the play was chosen for commercial reasons.

“We did not discuss taboos because they attract more people,” she told Al Arabiya. “The play also tackles several other issues that are not of less importance.”

For example, Daoud pointed out, the play talks about the recent emergence of reality shows in the Arab world and the politicization of religion.

In previous statements, Daoud explained that it was important for the play to tour cities like London and Paris, which are homes to large Arab and Muslim communities.

The play premiered in the 2009 Carthage Theatre Festival then toured several European countries. In March 2010, the play was performed in Paris and in July it was staged in the UK as part of the London International Festival of Theatre.


(Translated from Arabic by Sonia Farid).

Comments »

Post Your Comment »

Social Media »