But unfortunately, Redgrave is a celebrated actor, not a director, and the one talent does not necessarily lead to the other. Even if it did, the form that Sawalha has chosen - the one-man monologue - is theatrically deadening in any but the most inventive of hands. A further body-blow to the project is Sara Salih's translation / adaptation of Ousama's memoirs, which contains no dramatic momentum or shaping structure, and adopts a tone of such bland, anachronistic modernity that all sense of amazement at the contemporary relevance of these 11th-century insights is lost through over-emphasis.
Sawalha is compelled to fall back on his not-inconsiderable charm, and the atmospheric setting created for him by designer Antony Lamble: a cool chamber in the palace of Shayzar, Syria, with beautiful tiles on the floor, a latticework window behind, a round brass table carrying bowls of delicious- looking food, and on another table a tray of pomegranates, grapes and fresh figs. We glimpse the ancient culture of the Middle East, but we do not hear it.
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