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Department of the Languages and Cultures of the Near and Middle East

Cleo Jay


Picture of Cleo Jay
Cleo Jay
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Thesis title:
Moroccan Theatre in the Post-Lead Years: Performing Identity, Politics and Society.
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PhD Research

My thesis looks at social and political transition in Morocco through the prism of theatre and performance. Since Independence, theatre can be said to have reflected the trials and tribulations of the country trying to redefine its identity in a multicultural and increasingly globalising context. In the last two decades, theatre has overcome its issues to seduce new audiences, by addressing taboo subjects and creating a space of free and safe expression for disempowered youth. My aim is to analyse the way theatre plays both reflect social change and accompany it, and in some cases inspire it.
I am particularly interested by issues of gender, and the promotion of minorities in a very multicultural environment. In the last couple of years, since the reform of the Moudawana in 2004 granting women a more equal status within the family and outside, civil society associations have tirelessly promoted the new laws. Theatre companies have addressed these relevant issues through plays in workshops, and there is a growing number of female directors and playwrights creating plays for female audiences, or looking at issues specifically affecting women.
My thesis is also concerned with the relationship between the State, cultural institutions such as the French and American cultural centres, and theatre groups. Due to lack of independent funding and appropriate performance spaces, companies are very much reliant on the support of those institutions to survive. In many ways, their work is thus co-opted to fit with the policies of the Moroccan state or with foreign interests, in particular concerning the depiction of women. In many ways, culture is being used as a window to promote the image of a tolerant, open and liberal Morocco, which I argue doesn’t represent the daily struggles of most Moroccans.