THEATRE

“I started out in the theatre by writing pieces for radio, 9 to be exact, for the France Culture channel. Not all of them were broadcast, but it was a valuable experience and training. Writing for the theatre, right from the start, cuts down your options: working with a set number of characters and locating yourself, and thereby locating your readers, in one particular place – “Verona. A public square.” (Romeo and Juliet, Shakespeare). This gives the writer the arduous labour of describing places and characters in minute detail, even if they appear only fleetingly in the story. “The ladies, wearing bonnets, had on dresses in the town fashion, gold watch chains, pelerines with the ends tucked into belts, or little coloured fichus fastened down behind with a pin, and that left the back of the neck bare.” (Madame Bovary, Flaubert). And then you need to give stage directions. The writer focuses on what the characters are saying, the dialogue. This is both a liberation and constraint, because the words have to do it all.”

ROMEO AND JULIET IN TABARKA

In 2015 Monique Longerstay, an archaeologist and the chair of The Green Country cultural association, commissioned me to write a play for the theatre. There was a twofold requirement: telling about the island’s history to students in an English course in the Tabarka lycée in Tunisia. I had already published a short story entitled “The Three Tabarkas”, talking about the island, in the Siècle 21 review. I then turned to my favourite myth, Romeo and Juliet, and I wrote Romeo and Juliet in Tabarka, with historical advice from Professor Philippe Gourdin. The play was performed in the Skylantern Festival in Tabarka, on 23 April 2016, in English.

In 1660, when corsairs were on the rampage in the Mediterranean, there was an exchange of slaves on Tabarka Island: Carla Lomellini, a descendant of the famous family that had leased the island since the 16th century, who was held as a slave in Tunis, was exchanged for Moussa Tabacq, a young Turkish man from the Genoese galleys. Against the background of the sumptuous Genoese fort, the paths of the two young people cross, they watch each other and start to become close. But the moment of separation is on its way…

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