BAM finds its Muslim voice

BAM finds its Muslim voice
Jack Vartoogian

Now is the winter of our discontent made glorious summer by this son of … Saud?

Shakespeare’s Richard of Gloucester might not have had the desert sun on his mind when he uttered his weather forecast, but Kuwaiti director Sulayman al-Bassam found the play well suited to the Machiavellian machinations of the Middle East.

As part of Brooklyn Academy of Music’s “Muslim Voices” festival, al-Bassam’s reworking of the Bard’s “Richard III” puts the eponymous monarch as dictator of a modern-day Persian Gulf emirate.

Al-Bassam’s grim-visaged, military uniform-clad strongman (pictured) was based on a familiar individual.

“It seemed to me a neat arrangement that ‘Richard III’ could be used as a hook for an exploration of Saddam Hussein, Baathist Iraq, the rise and fall,” said the playwright. “Everyone here has blood on their hands. Everyone is trapped in a historical cycle. There’s no decent politics here.”

The “Muslim Voices” fortnight also includes a June 5 concert by Senegalese singer Youssou N’Dour and an ongoing retrospective on Egyptian filmmaker Youssef Chahine.

Tricky Dick: Fayez Kazak plays King Richard III in a new riff on Shakespeare’s play that will be performed as part of the Muslim Voices festival at BAM from June 9-12.
Ellie Kurtz

Youssou N’Dour at Brooklyn Academy of Music [30 Lafayette Ave. near St. Felix Street in Fort Greene, (718) 636-4100], Friday, June 5, 8 pm. Tickets are $25–$55. “Richard III: An Arab Tragedy,” June 9-12, 7:30 pm. Tickets, $25-45.