Verhalen uit de Harem

TALES from the HAREM

Première 2002, Amsterdam

To be free..not to be free…it all depends.

The biggest fools are those who wear fetters made of cobwebs and think they are powerless. Francois Villon

Five women live their lives together, totally separated from the outside world. The gate of their house is guarded by an old gatekeeper who doesn’t let anyone out or in. Within the borders of the space that is allotted to hem they create their own world by means of rituals, stories, song, dance, poetry, secret beauty recipes and heated discussions about freedom. They observe the world from behind the carving in the gate.

The history of the ‘Forbidden Bird’ runs as a continuous thread through the story. An embroidery design for a bird, forbidden according to ancient customs, becomes the main issue in a battle between tradition and progress.

This performance was inspired by the work of the Maroccan sociologist Fatima Mernissi; the Egyptian writer and Nobelprize winner Naguib Mahfouz, classical Arabic poetry and folklore and the stories of ‘Arabian Nights’.

Tales from the Harem is a necklace of stories, as enchanting as the tales told by Sheherezade; a spectacular and beautifully designed performance full of exotic rituals, a capella songs for more voices, poetry and exciting stories. The audience is carried away to an unknown and enchanting world of strange beauty.

.What is freedom? … Not all boundaries are visible.

Five women and a gatekeeper discover their confines.

harem (Arab) – variation on haram (Arab. – that which is forbidden).

A harem – a wall – the border – hudud (Arab. – the holy border).


Malik: Istvan Hezso

Lalla Sihr: Sophie Ruthven Stuart

Aunt Oelajja: Frouke Flieringa

Ummaima: Peppie mac Ruairi

Djamila: Saskia Jelsma

Nivine: Tatiana Kouzovkina

Director/design: Vladimir Koifman

Script: Tatiana Kouzovkina

Costumes: Studio V&T

Music: Tania Lina

Choreography: Levi Graham, John Agésilas

Technique: Andrei Fourmanov

Production: Sonja Bönisch


Text: Arabic Folk song

Arrangement: Tatiana Lina