BAM finds its Muslim voice

BAM finds its Muslim voice
Out through the N’Dour: Senegelese legend Youssou N’Dour will perform as part of the Muslim Voices festival at BAM on June 5.
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.

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