Imam Hussein

by Enrique Olmos de Ita
Corposcopio Teatro
M1 Singapore Fringe Festival 2012: Art & Faith 

(organised and curated by TNS)
Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore


One has to admire Mexican outfit Teatro Corposcopio, an independent organisation committed to developing the potential of intercultural theatre. As their inaugural project, touring for the first time outside Mexico, they have chosen to explore the world of Shi'a Islam through the voice of its women. It's by no means a perfect play, with some protracted sequences and too much exposition, but it gets its message across with eloquence.

Imam Hussein is an intense, urgent dialogue by acclaimed Mexican playwright Enrique Olmos de Ita which explores the tensions between Zeinab, sister of the martryed Imam Hussein (grandson of the Prophet Muhammad) and Sekinah, Hussein's teenage daughter. Zeinab wants to keep the spirit of her people alive and for Sekinah to acknowledge her legacy and the sacrifices of her forebears. The sprightly Sekinah, on the other hand, just wants live her life freely without dwelling on the sanguinary past.



Central to Imam Hussein is the idea of cleansing. The headstrong Sekinah is both physically and emotionally laid bare as Zeinab guides her through the ritual of bathing a dead body, insisting that she (Sekinah) put herself in the shoes of the corpse and learn the importance of treating it with dignity. It is this dignity which Sekinah finally gains as she steps up to the challenge of claiming her identity, donning a green ribbon as a symbol of her allegiance.

The play gains a particular resonance in its closing sequence as images of contemporary Mexico are flashed on the screen, showing a country torn apart by violence and bloodshed under the Mexican Drug War. It is here that director Felipe Cervera aims to link the story of ancient Islam to modern society, driving home the theme of inheriting one's past and faith as a salve to violence. As noted by several people in the post-show dialogue, it may not have had quite the same impact on a Singaporean audience as it did in Mexico but one cannot help but admire the sentiment behind the message.

It's heartening to see plays like Imam Hussein making their way to the mainstream stage and participating in our theatre festivals. Even for audiences unfamiliar with the topic, it's joy to witness the world through the lens of a foreign culture and enrich oneself by the transformative power of theatre.
 
The Crystalwords score: 6/10

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