Kareem Samara sits alone at the front of the Royal Court Theatre’s Jerwood Theatre Upstairs, quietly playing several instruments and filling the room with a calming energy. Beside him, a screen projection displays a map and the show’s title: A History of Water in the Middle East. While the Middle East region evokes a sense of overwhelming warmth and sunniness, such heat is juxtaposed by the cool blue fogginess of the room at the start of the production.
Through A History of Water in the Middle East, the play’s author, Sabrina Mahfouz, and partner Laura Hanna give a lecture. The content: “a highly edited, highly condensed – History of water in the Middle East.” Never has an academic lecture been more informative or engaging. Universities across the U.K. should take note of Mahfouz’s teaching style. Her lecture snapped between an immersive view of the interrogation she faced from a brazen spy, David Mumeni, while completing her certification to become a spy and emotional anecdotes of women’s struggles in the Middle East, women impacted by Britain’s imperial quest for control – of their water.
The multi-layered presentation included mesmerizing music from Samara and vocals from Hanna along with helpful, yet, not overwhelming projected visual aids. Long strips of bright and colorful neon lights, rivers, spanned the length of the theatre, representing the power of water in critical moments throughout the show.
The production, directed by Stef O’Driscoll, leaves the audience to reckon with British Imperial history and the impact it has made on lives around the world to this day.
A History of Water in the Middle East is playing at The Royal Court Theatre through the 16th of November. Tickets are available from £15-£25 The Royal Court Theatre’s website.
Photo courtesy of Craig Sugden and The Royal Court Theatre.