Rest Upon The Wind opens with talk of unrest in Egypt and Syria. But despite a sadly all-too-familiar reference, this original stage play by Nadim Sawalha is not set in the present, rather it is set in the early decades of the 20th Century.
It focuses on acclaimed Lebanese poet, painter and philosopher Khalil Gibran during his years of struggle as an immigrant living in the States, primarily in Boston’s Chinatown, shining a light on his relationships and the formation of his most celebrated work, The Prophet.
Times weren’t easy for a Lebanese immigrant in Boston back then, and the staging – sparse and stark – suits the mood of the play.
Interestingly, although Gibran’s writing is mentioned and quoted, it does not overshadow what is essentially a play about Gibran’s relationship with those around him, rather than his political and philosophical views.
Good, then, that in addition to an accomplished and believable performance by Fanos Xenofos in the lead role of Gibran, is a small ensemble cast who excellently bring to life those characters who shaped Gibran’s world.
They are used to highlight the fact that although a mostly likeable man, he was no angel, and throughout the play, the flaws in his personality and behaviour are made apparent.
Among a strong cast, special mention should go to Dina Mousawi who plays Gibran’s sister and whose spirited performance helps bring the first act to life. This is necessary, as the first act lacks some of the pace of the second, which trots through the key elements of Gibran’s later years.
Though fairly basic, the staging is visually arresting, making use of the Katara’s Drama Theater to good effect. Annoyingly, the sound quality is not so good, with fuzzy acoustics in what is quite a large auditorium making it difficult to pick out what the actors are saying at times, which can in turn make it hard to fully engage with events being played out on stage.
Overall, the arrival of Rest Upon The Wind for a three-night sold-out Katara residency has been a welcome addition to Qatar’s arts scene. Unusually, the packed audience managed to keep their focus on the action on stage rather than on their smartphones (which amazingly stayed silent throughout the opening-night performance). As everyone in Doha knows, this fact should be seen by the cast and crew of the play as a major (and rare) endorsement.