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What is the point of romantic love? asks Riham Isaac, the Palestinian Banksy and Danny Boyle co-creator

It's a question anyone who has ever been dumped, fleeced for a valentine's day meal, or spent a Friday night swiping their way through Tinder, must have asked - what is the point of romantic love? And why are we so hellbent on chasing it? Riham Isaac, a Palestinian theatre artist, grew up in a culture with very traditional ideas about the need for a woman to find a husband and settle down. But in recent years she's found herself running from the things society has taught her to want, and interrogating the myths surrounding romantic love. This is the subject of her new show, Another Lover's Discourse, a multimedia solo performance that mashes up autobiography, video, dance and old Arabic love songs to create a funny, poignant look at what the human heart really yearns for. It will receive its first sharing on Saturday 7 March, 5.30pm, at Richmix, as part of Arabic Women Artists Now (AWAN) Festival.

Amber Massie-Blomfield: Tell us a bit more about what to expect from Another Lover's Discourse.

Riham Isaac: Another Lover’s Discourse will be a different view about love: in many ways it's rooted in my experiences as a Palestinian woman, but I also think it will be relevant for anyone in the world who is questioning love and trying to make it right - and perhaps failing many times in sustaining it. It will be funny and poignant, with film, dance, and you'll get to hear me singing some Arabic love songs!

Amber: ALD explores the myths surrounding love. Why do you think it is important that we question society's pressure on us to chase romantic relationships?

Riham: There are so many images, patterns and ideas around love that we don’t know how to love anymore. We chase an idea of love without knowing where we got this idea. So in this work I am questioning: from where do we learn about love? And is there a way of changing our perspectives about it? There is nothing wrong in romantic relationships, but it shouldn’t be a duty or a pressure. If you don’t have one, then you haven’t failed as a complete person.

Amber: Many people will be familiar with your work as co-director, with Danny Boyle, of the Alternativity. A theatre production initiated by Banksy that saw The Nativity performed in Bethlehem by Palestinian children in the shadow of the West Bank barrier wall, it made a powerful political statement. What role do you think art can play as a means of political resistance?

Riham: My involvement in that work was very political. You had two very important UK artists and celebrities coming to Palestine to show a story about it. And it was me there from the Palestinian side… The show offered a window for me to speak in a transparent way, conveying our story to the audience in UK who watched the BBC2 documentary. We showed the real lives of people in Palestine, and the amazing cultural vibe we live in, despite the hard political injustice we face. Just being creative and making art is by itself a political act in Palestine and showing that to the world is something I was proud to do. For example this young women's rap group that I introduced in the show, rapping about freedom - who doesn’t seek freedom? That is a very universal message. This shows that we are not strangers from each other and perhaps you can put yourself in my shoes rather than observing me from the outside. This is the political art I'm interested in making.

Amber: Can you tell us a bit more about the theatre culture in Palestine, and what it's like to be a part of it?

Riham: The theatre culture in Palestine really got going in the early sixties and seventies. It was mostly political theatre. Now we are raising new generation who are also very political but at the same time very contemporary and open to the world. You can't be in Palestine and not make work that is somehow political - yet there is this urge to talk about other issues in our daily lives, the politics of our daily life. We have circus groups, parkour, puppets,  contemporary dance festivals, children's theatre festivals. I am so happy to be part of this generation who is contributing to rising this cultural theatrical vibe in Palestine and tell different stories to the world.

Amber: ALD is part of Arab Women Artists' Now (AWAN) Festival at Richmix. What else should we be getting excited about in the programme?

Riham: I think the whole program is exciting. AWAN is brilliant: it introduces the most fantastic Arab women artists who you may never have heard of before. I am looking forward to the panel discussions they will have from 5th-7th March, and I am very excited about OUM, an amazing Moroccan singer performing at the end of the festival. I am excited about their comedy shows: Arabs are not funny and The Misunderstanding of Palestine by Nour Alkawaja.

Amber: You're developing ALD in London, where you studied at Goldsmiths. What's so special about the city that it keeps drawing you back?

Riham: I did my Performance MA in London in 2013, and I am quite familiar with the art scene here. London has this amazing vibe where you meet so many different artists that can influence your work and add to it. I learn so much just through conversations and observations. Why am I back? Through the years I managed to create connections and I am hoping it will be a gateway to introduce my work to the international audience.  I am so excited that I am sharing my first Solo project here in London at Rich Mix part of AWAN festival.

Amber: Lastly, if you could offer one dating tip to people who are cynical about romantic love, what would it be?

Riham: Oh, I think you just have to OWN it. And a take a  flower with you. I still believe in romantic love gestures, and showing some effort to know the person truly.

Riham Isaac: www.rihamisaac.com | AWAN Festival: www.awan.org.uk

Another Lover's Discourse
Saturday 7 March
Rich Mix
Tickets and info: richmix.org.uk

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