Saudi Arabia stages its first mixed theatrical show


Last Friday theatre-goers in Saudi Arabia were treated to a show featuring female and male actors together for the first time in the conservative kingdom.

Najat, 21, became the first Saudi actress to perform in a stage show along with males in the country, the latest sign of the social openness spearheaded by the powerful Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman.

The play, based on the Disney film "The Emperor's New Groove," was presented in the Saudi capital Riyadh, with a second performance due on Saturday. All tickets for the performances were sold out days earlier, according to organisers. Men and women were allowed to watch.

"Although it is my first experience on the stage, the team spirit ëin the workû has motivated me," said Najat, who previously appeared in short performances online. "I have expected society to accept the idea of women's participation with men in acting on the stage," she told Saudi newspaper al-Hayat in remarks published on Saturday. "We do nothing wrong."

In the past, women's roles in plays performed in Saudi Arabia were done by men.

Saudi heir apparent Mohammed has vowed that the kingdom will return to "moderate Islam" as he works on reducing the influence of the hard-line religious establishment in the country. He is believed to have championed lifting a long ban on women driving, a move that will go into effect in June.

The first movie theatre in Saudi Arabia is due to open in March, after a 35-year-old ban on cinemas. In recent months, top foreign performers have held an unprecedented string of concerts in the country.    (dpa)

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