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Shore to Shore

Sarah Finch worships at Holy Spirit and is an actress who has performed in films, television and in the theatre. Here, she writes for us of an extraordinary cultural and religious exchange between England and Morocco.

THE ENTERTAINING MOROCCO PROJECT combines performance traditions from England and Morocco, presenting theatre works, musical concerts, and discussions by Moroccan and English artists and scholars. The project explores cross-cultural collaboration and learning, aspects of Christianity and Islam, and invites the target audience of 18 – 30 year olds in both countries to debate personal freedom, recognise cultural differences and similarities, and appreciate the surprising historical ties between the two worlds.

A multicultural, multi-faith initiative

At the end of February the collaboration of performances, workshops and conferences in England and Marrakech with our Sufi friends of the Association Mogador Musique et Chant Soufiefrom Essaouria took place. As well as music there were bits of Shakespeare and Rumi (a Sufi mystic poet - Sufism is an aspect of Islam which emphasises the inner and spiritual paths to belief and ethics, rather than just complying with religious laws). 

Our first performance nearly didn’t happen, as the Sufi were refused visas, and they eventually managed to arrive 48 hours before our first performance (for some excerpts click on picture below to start video)


We then all set off for Essaoira, Morocco, where we were central to a small arts festival. We were a large and varied team so as well as performances there were workshops in cookery, photography, Shakespeare and Dance,. We performed in English and French.

However, the workshops had to be conducted in French. We had about 20 young people between the ages of about 16 and 30. We worked on a piece from Midsummer Night’s Dream (in French!) The young people came from varied backgrounds, one was a busker, and gave a wonderful contribution on his violin.

We learnt that workshops tend to start about 30 minutes after the appointed time. By the second workshop there was a close relationship with all the young people, On the final day of the festival the students performed their piece of Shakespeare. Afterwards they had prepared an enormous tagine with couscous, vegetables and chicken in our honour. I wish I had a picture of the crowd of us, in the courtyard, crowded round an enormous tagine!

We then moved on to Marrakech, to Cadi Ayyad University, where we were part of a conference on ‘Shakespeare and the Senses’ at which I gave a paper ‘Shakespeare: A Universal Language’. There was an exhibition of the wonderful photographs the street children in Essauira had taken. We did more Shakespeare workshops, this time we chose a bit of Julius Caesar: as there had been student riots, this felt appropriate!

Our final performance was at Riad El Fenn, to an audience including Ruby Wax and Alan Yentob (all present for the Marrakech Biennale, to which we were also loosely linked) In Marrakech we stayed at the University Club, very close to a large Mosque, the first call of prayer was broadcast to all at about 5am. On our last day our Sufi friends came to say goodbye. As we sat together the call to prayer began (the mid day one) We all fell silent, it was a profound shared moment. Art had brought us together..and we also found values that we have in common.

There has already been talk about how the project will go forward next February, but that is for another time!