Rest Upon the Wind: Staging the Life of Khalil Gibran

Posted on November 5, 2012

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As reviewed for The Platform (November 05, 2012)

“A little while, a moment of rest upon the wind, and another woman shall bear me.”
–The Prophet, 
by Gibran Khalil Gibran, 1923

Having made its debut in London’s West End back in November  2011 to an exceptional stint of sold-out shows, Rest Upon the Wind, a theatrical depiction of the life of Lebanese-American poet and painter Khalil Gibran, recently toured the Middle East.

Although his is a name synonymous with literary greatness, the personal journey of aphorist extraordinaire Gibran has, for the most part, been left unexplored. This void in humanising a figure so revered is what playwright Nabil Sawaha claims was his main incentive in dedicating many years to researching and subsequently penning his adaptation of the philosopher’s story, 80 years after Gibran’s demise.

The curtains first rise to a dialogue between a spiritually troubled Gibran and a waiter in a cafe in Boston, many years after the former’s move to America, that culminates rather reverentially  in the completion and successful publishing of his most acclaimed work, The Prophet.

The journey portrayed is that of a struggling yet egotistic Gibran, pulling at straws to make a living as an immigrant pariah in America. He lives with his temperamental, yet endearing sister Myrianna, has his talent discovered by a supporter of the arts, Fred Holland Day, is nearly thwarted by his money-mongering neighbour Marzoo and even falls in love with older confidante and benefactress Mary Haskell. It proves a surprisingly tempestuous series of events to associate with a man oozing calm and reflection in his written work.

The stage setting is kept minimal, the absence of too many props artfully disguised by shadow play and selective illumination. In a tete-a-tete with the audience at the end of the play, director Tanushka Marah justified her choice of set: “I don’t intend on having everything spelled out to the members of the gallery. My job is to ensure that the story is relayed, yet at the same time not restrict the audience to my perception of the imagery.”

Sawaha (who also plays the part of Gibran’s father) employs Gibran’s constant fits into cirrhotic stupor as a theatrical tool abetting in the many flashbacks transporting the audience to the events in Gibran’s childhood that he deems worthy of being highlighted. The dialogue is witty yet laced with bitterness, catering to the Levantine members of the audience with the occasional “inside joke”.

More than Fanos Xenofós’ portrayal of the protagonist, whose theatrical ability only surfaced towards the latter acts of the play, it was Dina Mousawi’s performance as Gibran’s sister, Myrianna, that truly delivered a stage presence worthy of the play’s acclaim. For, although the role of Myrianna is primarily a comedic one, Mousawi would oscillate from a hand flailing, retort wielding sibling to an intensely tearful monologue of a distressed sister with the ease of a seasoned thespian.

Lebanese-born members of the audience may well have considered the production a timely arrival. That being the very weekend on which the country was reeling from the shock of a fatal car bomb in central Beirut, allowed for a greater relation to Gibran’s yearning for a free and peaceful homeland.

Having added Jordan, Dubai and Abu Dhabi to its repertoire of full houses, Rest Upon The Wind is soon scheduled to return to Europe, planning to hit five major cities with Gibran posthumously winning more hearts along the way.

For more information on Rest Upon The Wind visit www.GibranThePlay.com

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