SOAS University of London

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

Cleo Jay

  • Overview


Picture of Cleo Jay
Ms Cleo Jay
Email address:
Thesis title:
Moroccan Theatre in the Post-Lead Years: Performing Identity, Politics and Society
Year of Study:
Internal Supervisors

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.


  • "Performance and social activism in Morocco: the legacy of Fatima Chebchoub", International Journal of Cultural Studies, ed. Simon Weaver and Raul Mora (forthcoming)
  • "A Moroccan Spring: Theatre and the socio-political transition in Contemporary Morocco" in New direction in African Theatre and Performance, ed. Victor Ukaegbu & Jumai Ewu (forthcoming)
  • "Identity politics, resistance and co-optation: The rise of the transnational Amazigh movement in the post-Arab Spring era" in Contentious Politics in the Middle East, ed. Fawaz Gerges (forthcoming)
  • "Performing the Moudawana: Feminine voices in Contemporary Moroccan Theatre" in Performative Inter-actions in African Theatre II: Innocation, Creativity and Social Change, ed. Kene Igweonu & Osita Okagbue, Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2013
  • "Acting up: Performance and the Politics of womanhood in contemporary Morocco", Journal of Cultural African Studies, ed. Karima Laachir, 25: 3, 2013
  • "Staging the North African transition: theatrical productions since the Arab Spring", IEMED Mediterranean Yearbook, 2013. 
  • "Staging the transition in North Africa: Theatre as a tool of empowerment", Ibraaz, Platform 004, 2012. 


Editor of the SOAS Journal of Postgraduate Research.