Veils, Women And War Festival - Review

Over the last couple of days the news has been filled with news of the attempted coup in Turkey to take it back to its secular roots, a course of action alleged to be in response to the crackdown on civil liberties and freedom of the press. It was only a few years ago that the Arab Spring wave made its way across the Middle East, announcing the desire – if not the actual reality – of cultural change in the region. The So & So Arts Club, as part of its Women And War season, is showing Tom Coash's Veils which holds a mirror to current events.

Set in Cairo six years ago, Veils opens with the arrival of Intisar (Isaura Barbe-Brown), an African-American Muslim student waiting to meet her new roommate at the American Egyptian University. Samar (Zelina Ribeiro) the roommate in question isn't quite what Intisar imagined, nor vice versa. For Intisar wears a hijab, a headscarf traditionally worn by women of the Muslim Faith, while Samar is dressed from head to toe on in clothes that the average teenager wears.

As they spend time together, tension slow'y but surely builds up as Samar's 'Westernised' views seem to fly in the face of Intisar's idea of what a 'true' Muslim should is, especially in a country that is known for its religious fervour. Samar asks Intisar to appear in her documentary to dispel the misconceptions about wearing a veil and provide a liberal counter-argument for its use. However there is discontent in the air as various protests at the university take place and Intisar finds that being a woman in Egypt is just as hard, if not harder than being in the West...

At the core of Veils is a burgeoning friendship – rocky at times, but one that thrives of the differences rather than the similarities of the two young women. Both Samar and Intisar believe passionately in their respective points of view. But while Intisar's has been out of a sense of pride and identity that the likes of Mohammed Ali have championed in the States, Samar's views have stemmed from a lifetime of seeing the disparity between the way women are spoken about in the Quran and the way they are treated by the patriarchy in real life, as second class citizens or as sex objects.

Both women have their respective stories about indignity and the treatment of Muslim women by men working for the government, but Samar physically pays the price for attending a rally for being seen as a protestor...

With its strong writing, contemporary relevance and its top notch direction and performances, Veils is a play that demands to be seen.  In the tradition of the very best plays, it is thought-provoking as it is entertaining,  blending a personal story with that of the world stage. Proof that mutual respect and dialogue about respective points of view is just as important on a one-to one basis, if not more so, than on a global scale.

On my way home from seeing the play, there were three women in my tube carriage who were all wearing hijabs. I did wonder if my response to their attire woud have been very different 90 minutes earlier. Certainly gave me pause for thought.

© Michael Davis 2016

http://www.womenandwar.co.uk/#!tickets/cq53

Performances:
Sat July 23rd: 15:00
Sunday July 24th:17:00
Monday July 25th: 21:00
Tuesday July 26th: 19:00
Thursday July 28th: 13:00
Saturday July 30th: 21:00

 

Author's review: 
5