The other night I watched students from the University of Damascus perform the George Bernard Shaw play, “Arms and the Man”. It was a great night. The so very English jokes about Central Europeans mixed well with the local Syrian genius for sneering and preening (very important in a class-based comedy like this), and the students’ language abilities were far better than I’d ever seen them use in class. The leading actress was also incredibly beautiful. The leading actress was also incredibly beautiful – sorry, have I already mentioned this? There was one particular moment where she fluttered girlishly, and, across the packed auditorium, you could hear jaws dropping in an love-stricken, swooning sigh. Men stopped asking themselves, “Does this woman have a boyfriend?” and starting wondering, “Is he susceptible to bullet wounds?”
I only had two reservations about the performance – the sugary ending, which was Shaw’s fault rather than the actors’, and my doubts about how much of the dialogue the majority of the audience understood. One of my friends overheard two guys talking about how much of play they were getting, and one remarked (in Arabic), “About 25%…”
On a personal note, it was also a great night for me because after the play, I met lots of the students who I’ve been seeing in the weekly university English club. They had either heard or realised that I’d been bit bruised by the previous debate about Iraq, and they kept apologising and I kept telling them to stop apologising. They insisted I come back, and I suggested we all bring some Arabic or English poetry to discuss on Thursday.
I’ve been going through a rather misanthropic period lately, annoyed with a large number of things that I keep encountering in Syria, and the evening felt like a good partial cure.