London, United Kingdom- In a large room in the London dormitory of the Royal Shakespeare Company, the rehearsal orchestra began to work.
Nadim Namaan is a British Lebanese singer, actor and writer, known as Qatar’s first female composer, mainly actors and staff from the Middle East, North Africa and South Asia. Make the final preparations for “Rumi: The Musical”, a stage play that brings to life the story of the respected Persian poet Jalal al-Din Rumi.
Rumi expressed his ideology through music and dance, and Naman, who played Rumi, told Al Jazeera during the rehearsal break, “a part of the musical.”
Namaan said that when the team decided to “take his text and make scenes and songs…see what happens”, the idea of the show became a reality.
The Sufi poet’s motto is simply called Rumi, and is endlessly quoted in the West-appearing in the lyrics of the songs of pop stars from Madonna to Coldplay, on tools sold online, or disseminated In the social media message that hopes to inspire.
However, since Coleman Barks translated his works in the mid-1970s, Rumi is still the best-selling poet in the United States today, and is often deprived of his Muslim status.
Namaan and Al Fardan hope to bring real Rumi to audiences around the world-played by those who represent his region.
“In the entire Middle East… there are a lot of art fans and theater fans, but they only watch Western stories on stage all their lives,” Naman said.
“We think if we combine this style with iconic figures in the Middle Eastern art and literature scene, we will see what happens.”
“The game aims to eliminate stereotypes”
Alphadan, who usually lives in Doha, hopes that the show will dispel Western stereotypes of the region.
“Contemporary Middle Eastern figures have a lot of contact…extremism, but you don’t get these universally accessible…good ideas related to the Middle East [in] Western media,” Alphadan told Al Jazeera.
This musical is adapted from a novel by Evren Sharma, and its 20 songs are inspired by Rumi’s poems.
This work tells about the early stages of Rumi’s life, decades before he was a poet, Naman said it helped to humanize the deified character.
It tells of the encounter between Rumi and the mystic named Shams of Tabriz and its consequences. There are rumors that the two had a relationship, even though Rumi is married and has two children.
When Shams disappeared, Rumi turned to poetry and wrote thousands of poems dedicated to him, the Prophet Muhammad, and Allah.
Other actors include Ramin Karimlu, an Iranian-Canadian actor nominated by Tony, who plays Shams, and other young actors.
Hamad’s first time
Ahmed Hamad, who plays Rumi’s son Aladdin, said that during the rehearsal, he was free to use the non-English pronunciation of his name to introduce himself.
“Usually, there will be one or two races in musicals,” Hamad, who has Sudanese descent, told Al Jazeera. “Looking around and seeing a room full of creative people like you… it’s so heartwarming.”
Benjamin Armstrong has Sri Lankan descent and plays Rumi’s friend and follower Sayed, who will make his debut in the West End.
“I have nothing else I want to do,” he said, while celebrating being part of a diverse cast.
This musical is based on the success of Al Fardan and Namaan’s 2018 performance “Broken Wings”, and is adapted from a novel by Lebanese poet and author Kahlil Gibran. This work returned to London in January after the pandemic was suspended, and helped the two discover their interest in Middle Eastern idols.
“Dana and I as a team that we represent… have a lot of exchanges: one man, one woman, one Christian, one Muslim, one in Europe, one in the Middle East,” Man said. “We want to promote this. We want to show what happens when the Middle East and the West join forces.”
The Rumi Musical will be performed at the London Coliseum from November 23rd to 24th.