New Theatre: ‘The Several Beheadings of Ashraf Fayadh’

New Theatre: ‘The Several Beheadings of Ashraf Fayadh’


If you’re in London, you have an opportunity to drop in on a reading of Hassan Abdulrazzak‘s new short play, The Several Beheadings of Ashraf Fayadh:

Abdulrazzak is of Iraqi origin, born in Prague, now living — and writing — in London. A scientist by training, he’s written several acclaimed plays. He also writes short prose, with an emphasis on SFF, and translates work from the Arabic.



Abdulrazzak said, over email, that he wrote the play as part of World Stages Hub, an initiative organised by the West Yorkshire Playhouse (WYP), the Gate Theatre, and Hull Truck. “The idea is that three UK based writers would have a week long residence in Leeds and write short pieces that deal with the issue of censorship,” he said. These writers were also joined by Zimbabwean playwright Elizabeth Muchemwa, who is in residence at the WYP and currently working on a full-length play that touches on issues of censorship.

During the residency, Abdulrazzak said, authors were brought in contact with academics and activists who focus on censorship.

The title of Abdulrazzak’s short play refers, of course, to the Palestinian poet and artist who was initially sentenced to death in Saudi Arabia, ostensibly for his book Instructions Within, and whose sentence — after global protest — was reduced to a crippling eight years and 800 lashes.

During the writing process, Abdulrazzak said, “I started thinking about Ashraf Fayadh, particularly the event that lead to his eventual incarceration, namely going to a cafe to watch a football game and ending up in a heap of trouble. What if that day repeated over and over?”

The play is a combination of the darkly serious and absurdist humor. An unnamed man in the cafe emphasizes Fayadh’s Palestinianness, saying, “We gave you refuge. We gave you a home. And how do you repay this kindness? You hand out filthy literature to our youth.”

A young man snatches up a cafe menu and flips through it, asking: “Wow, filthy literature. Really?”

A reading of “The Several Beheadings of Ashraf Fayadh,” will take place at the Gate Theatre (Pembridge Rd, London W11 3HQ) tomorrow, Friday March 4 at 2:30 pm. There will also see staged readings of the new short works “Corals,” by Ng Choon Ping and”Micro,” by Zodwa Nyoni, as well as “Numbers” (an extract), by Muchemwa. All are directed by Jacqui Honess-Martin and Tinuke Craig.

While the event is free, Abdulrazzak advises prospective theatre-goers to register online.

Meanwhile, celebrated Moroccan poet Abdellatif Laâbi has translated Instructions Within into French.

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