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Gather Ye Rosebuds: Arab Women in the Spotlight

| Theatre | 05/08/2013

Gather Ye Rosebuds

Gather Ye Rosebuds is one of those rare things that delivers exactly what it promises: a combination of humour and drama set amongst the backdrop of an Egyptian revolution. I’ll admit that I questioned how comedy and laughter could be introduced into a play that deals with heavy issues such as female genital mutilation and women’s rights, but it somehow worked.

The play, directed by Diyan Zora, revolves around the events of an afternoon in downtown Cairo. Medina, an Egyptian woman educated in the UK, is preparing for a special ceremony: her daughter’s circumcision. Her British friend Louise, who now lives in Cairo as a doctor, comes to her flat and asks her to stop the ceremony or she will call the police. In the next room, Medina’s sister and friends wait and chat amongst themselves, discussing the protests in Cairo and how unsafe it has become for women in the streets.

Silva Semerciyan’s script, already tested and lauded at the Brighton Fringe Festival, is light and fitting, although at times the character’s dialogue seemed a little artificially casual, especially between Medina and Louise, played by Tamar Karabetyan and Michelle Ghatan respectively. The second act, when all four principal actors appear on stage, is undoubtedly stronger. The laughs are easily won, especially by Donna Combe as Basma, but it’s the dramatic dialogue from Karabetyan, now appearing as Medina’s friend Samir, that is surprisingly heartfelt and impactful.

What I liked about this play was that it explored a very interesting issue from a different angle. It is the women who are the driving force for the circumcision, acting out of tradition and the belief that girls will only be able to marry if they are ‘cut’. In fact, Medina’s husband is completely in the dark about the procedure, as he would oppose it. This is not a story we see commonly in the media and shows how women too are accountable for the existence of this atrocity.

Interestingly and in a show of how multi-dimensional the play is, Samira, who sits waiting to help perform the procedure, begins to embrace her feminist side as she questions the horrible treatment of women in Cairo and why men act the way they do. We get to see how the women really feel about their partners and men in general. It makes you wonder just how often these conversations are really had over tea and coffee in apartments all over Cairo…

Gather Ye Rosebuds is a thought-provoking and enjoyable play that will entertain the majority. As the cast took their bows, the audience – composed of both men and women – clapped appreciatively and loudly and yours truly was one of them.

The hour-long play was performed at the Theatre503 in Battersea for a five-night run.

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