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Arts and Culture

Nadim Naaman: Taking forward the unifying philosophies of Kahlil Gibran

HOMAGE TO A LEGEND: A poster of Broken Wings

By: ASJAD NAZIR

A GREAT looking theatre production being staged in London is a musical adaptation of legendary writer Kahlil Gibran’s poetic novel Broken Wings.

The poetic show, which runs from February 11 until March 26 at Charing Cross Theatre in London, sees an aging Gibran narrate an enchanting love story set in turn of the 20th century Beirut, which covers themes relevant today. These include issues of gender equality, immigration, the freedom to love whom we want, and what ‘home’ really means.

At the heart of the fascinating looking show is Nadim Naaman, who has written and composed it with Dana Al Fardan, and also plays Kahlil Gibran on stage.

Eastern Eye caught up with the multi-talented performer to discuss the show and magic of the legendary Gibran.

Nadim Naaman

According to you, what is it that made Kahlil Gibran such an important writer?
Gibran was so capable of articulating messages and philosophies that unite and bind us. In a divided world, his ambition to focus on what makes us equal, rather than segregated, has stood the test of time. He was ahead of his time, exploring feminism, equality, and diversity over a century ago.

What do you think makes Broken Wings so special?
Broken Wings is an origin story of sorts, described by Gibran as his ‘spiritual biography’. The events and themes offer an insight into his own life experience; falling in love for the first time and exploring the differences between societal structures of Lebanon versus America. These lessons clearly inspire his later successes, in particular The Prophet.

What inspired you to create the musical stage adaptation of Broken Wings?
Dana and I wished to create something universally accessible; to share Gibran and his legacy with new audiences and explore the man, rather than just his work. The novel lends itself perfectly to a stage adaptation, written in short chapters, which read very much like scenes. His lyrical poetry richly inspired the songs.

Tell us about the story?
The story takes place across two timelines, with Gibran narrating from New York in 1923 and flashbacks to Beirut in 1901. Young Gibran meets Selma, and their powerful connection is instantaneous. However, Selma soon becomes betrothed in an arranged marriage, and she and Gibran must fight to reconcile their love for one another amidst a backdrop of family loyalty and societal tradition.

Tell us about the music?
With Gibran’s poetry, musicality leaps off the page. Dana and I initially wrote seven songs each, focusing on the two timelines mentioned previously. Then we considered how these melodies of past, and present might intertwine. The score is laced with Middle Eastern sounds, but also feels familiar in style to fans of musical theatre.

What was the biggest challenge of writing and co-composing it for you?
Initially, self-doubt, as this was the first musical I wrote! I then found faith in my experience of the art form gained as an actor and drew on my familial experiences and Gibran-heavy upbringing. In time, the challenge became finding the balance between being faithful to Gibran’s original while expanding upon it, to create the substance and story arcs required to create a full-length musical.

How do you feel about also playing Gibran in the production?
In short, I feel honoured. Gibran is an ambassador of the Lebanese diaspora; a man who left home to succeed in his chosen path. As a Lebanese who has spent the vast majority of his life elsewhere, I relate to this. Gibran has much to teach the modern world and I feel proud to provide a mouthpiece for his ideologies.

What inspires you?
My children. Becoming a father is the greatest role of all. They inspire me to succeed and improve in all aspects. It is no coincidence I began my writing career when my eldest was on her way; a desire to create and leave something behind burnt within me like never before.

Why do you love theatre?
Theatre is a culmination of so many art forms. There is nothing like the shared relationship between a performance and audience, where each moment exists only once. There is of course much beauty in recorded music, film, and television, but these may be recorded many times over, and effects and editing do plenty afterwards. Nothing beats live storytelling.

Why should we all come and watch Broken Wings on stage? 
Broken Wings has something for everyone. The songs and story of love against societal structures provide echoes of popular shows such as West Side Story and Moulin Rouge. Alongside this, the show explores Middle Eastern culture, challenging stereotypes of the region, while paying homage to one of the greatest literary minds of all time.

See: www.brokenwingsmusical. co.uk & www.charingcrosstheatre. co.uk

Eastern Eye

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