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Choral Singing in Khartoum v Playing Shakespeare In Addis

March 3, 2008

An old friend, Andrew, is visiting from Sudan, where he and his wife, both journalists for Reuters and the BBC respectively, are spending their time doing things like reporting on public whippings and widespread rape, and feeling nostalgic for the life they led in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia prior to moving to Khartoum.

Khartoum and Addis are at polar opposites in Andrew's mind: the former is a hellhole, the latter paradise on earth.

I was particularly struck by Andrew's story about performing Shakespeare plays in Addis. Unlike in Sudan, where according to Andrew there's hardly anything to do in the evenings after work besides watch TV ("I heard that there might also be a choir somewhere," he added begrudgingly) expats in Addis seem interested in making art together in their free time.

Andrew recalls acting in productions of A Midsummer Night's Dream and Macbeth with casts composed of expats and local Ethiopians. What he loves most about these experiences is the community aspect. "The plays are a way of bringing people together," he told me over drinks in an Okland bar last night. "We're not performing for anyone but ourselves really."

His friend, Lucy Eyres, a writer (If Minds Had Toes), diplomat's wife and the daughter of the acclaimed British film and theatre director, Richard Eyres, is currently living in Addis and directing the local production of As You Like It. "The show opens this month," Andrew said, wistfully.

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