I confess, until a few weeks ago, I hadn’t read too much literature emanating from Palestine. A wee bit, sure, but nothing to write home about. And then, as chance would have it, an impromptu conversation with a friend of mine, Hafsah Bashir, changed everything. With her partner-in-crime, Nikki Mailer, she had set up Outside the Frame. And they were launching a project called Platform for Palestinian Arts. Woohoo!
“We want you to run a workshop…” Hafsah said and well, I couldn’t really say no to that, could I?
We met up at the intriguing Z-arts to mull over Palestinian writing. And they introduced me to a swathe of writing I had hitherto had no inkling of. Shame on me really.
Anyhoo, to cut a long story short and to reign in my propensity to spin story when a succinct sentence will do, we settled on a date for a workshop and we decided that we’d unpack “I am Yusuf and this is my Brother” by the Palestinian playwright, Amir Nizar Zuabi.
The date was the 28th of October 2016 and it was to form part of the Manchester Muslim Writers monthly circle. If I haven’t mentioned it before – I do tend to forget stuff – I set up the Manchester Muslim Writers in 2009.
Why “I am Yusuf and this is my Brother”?
So, why this particular play by this particular writer at this particular time? Hmm. It’s multi-faceted. This play is one which comes out of Palestine; it was written there, performed there, before it was brought to the Young Vic Theatre to do the saintly thing of showing us Brits how theatre is done. So, it possesses a certain kind of authenticity.
The other thing is that it isn’t an “Us vs Them” sorta play. Sure, it draws from the context of what has happened in Palestine, but it really takes its theme from something far more ancient and dare I say it, biblical. Yusuf is the Arabian name for Joseph and there’s the connection. The eponymous Joseph with the Technicolour Dream coat. That lends the play something timeless. I do like those sorts of links. I don’t mean you should like them too. I just do.
Anyway, the 28th of October at Chorlton Library in Manchester was a hoot. Well attended, quite full actually and with some riveting writing rising out of the workshop – and tremendous feedback. It’s always nice to get great feedback!
“I am Yusuf and this is my Brother” is a great play and I’d love to see it performed one day. I hope that my analysis of its provided useful insight to the workshop attendees. What was the best thing that I got out of it? Why, I’ve finally started to dig deeper into Palestinian literature and what a rich seam of literary gold it is!