HEAD Over Heels In Saudi Arabia, at Merchant’s Hall on Hanover Street, is described as a hilarious, touching and contemporary solo show about what it means to be a woman in Saudi Arabia today.
The piece tells writer and performer Dr Maisah Sobaihi’s own story, and that of her comic characters Layla and Maryam. It gives a unique insight into the pressures and challenges of being a modern and educated woman negotiating love, marriage, and career in a traditional, patriarchal society, where polygamy is legal, gender segregation is the norm and where women are forbidden to drive.
When asked to compare performing at the Fringe and performing in Saudi Arabia, she chuckles, “How do you compare the world’s most vibrant theatre festival to a place, which is yet to see a theatre festival? I guess you don’t.
“Performing in Saudi Arabia is a very unique experience.”
Sobaihi describes herself as “a full-blooded Arab woman, born in Saudi Arabia, raised in California, and with a doctorate in literature from King’s London.”
Recalling her introduction to Saudi Arabian society she reveals, “My first year of high school was in a private, all-girl school in Saudi Arabia. That year I had to learn how to cope with the methods of a school that was nothing like the public school system of California.
“Also, I had to learn Arabic, and learn how to keep an Abaya (what is known to the outside world as the veil) from falling off my shoulders. The learning process was difficult but successful. Very quickly I learned how to integrate with Saudi Arabian culture, and before I knew it, I was married at the age of 17, and ten years later I was divorced, with two beautiful boys, living alone as a single mother in Saudi Arabia.”
For the following ten years, she learned how to survive as a divorcee in a culture that still values marriage as the true destiny for all women. Writing Head Over Heels, allowed her to record those experiences.
“There was so much happening in my life and I felt a heaviness that led me to say ‘I have to start writing’, so I started scribbling and here I am a scribbling woman from Saudi Arabia in Scotland.
“I hope people are ready to listen to what this piece of work has to say. It is fun, all about the crazy things women can do when men start doing what they do.”
Head Over Heels in Saudi Arabia, Spotlites @ The Merchant’s Hall, Hanover Street, until Monday, 5.50pm, £8.50, 0131-220 5911