Elements of myth in the modern theatre, with special reference to current theatre in Oman

Al Lawati, Abdul Karim Ali Jawad

October 2004

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© 2004 Abdul Karim Ali Jawad Al Lawati. All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced without the written permission of the copyright holder.

This study focuses on the relationship between myth in its classical and modern definition and the theatre, and how the developing Omani theatre can Benefit from western and Arabian experiences in this field. The study shows how myths, around the world, were the first attempt by human beings to think, explain, justify and produce concepts and images. They were the basis on which the first drama was established, and have continued to be a major source of inspiration. The study then explores various modern explanations of myth from the mid nineteenth century, in which myths were classified into various categories and attempts made to study each in isolation. It then illustrates how myths were subsequently studied by anthropologists and psychologists, as manifestations of the individual or collective conscious or unconscious realm, which confirms that myths, despite their outwardly illogical element, carry not fact itself but the essence of the fact. The author clarifies the definition and concept of myth in Islamic and Arabic culture, the meaning of the word in the Holy Quran and the attitude of Islamic and Arab scholars towards it. Consideration is also given to the explanations by modern Arab scholars for the ancient Arabs' lack of concern with myths, in contrast to the cultures of their neighbours.

The study sheds light on how the modem mythological, sociological, anthropological, theological and psychological explanations of myth are employed in contemporary theatre and how they have influenced performance and critical theories such as those of Artaud and Archetypal Criticism. It is noted that such theories played an essential role in a number of modern theatrical movements, and consequently concluded that those theories might usefully be applied in developing countries like Oman.

Particular attention is given to the theatre in Oman, asserting the importance of its interaction with international theatre at both theoretical and practical levels, especially with those countries, which have strong theatrical traditions. Nevertheless, alongside this is emphasised the importance of employing indigenous sources of heritage and knowledge, such as myths.

The study elucidates the role of myths in Oman's culture, in light of historical and geographical factors. It describes how mythology became an integral part of people's lives as a way of thinking about, imagining and explaining different events or phenomena in their lives.

It is concluded that theatre should be aware of this fact, and deal with it. This does not mean uncritically accepting superstitions and regressive thinking, which could be harmful, but saving the popular heritage and employing it in such a way that people recognize its advantages and disadvantages, as modern mythological studies suggest, in order to build a close relationship between the theatre and its audience, and to provide the society with new and wider intellectual and aesthetic understanding of their existing myths, for the Benefit of both theatre and society.

Department of Drama, The University of Hull
Peacock, D. Keith
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