Artists from across North Africa and the Middle East have performed at a London theatre festival, which aimed to tackle taboo issues from across the regions. Companies from Tunisia, Algeria, Egypt and Morocco appeared at the Marahaba Magreb festival at the Sutton Theatres from 23 to 29 November.

Shows dealt with taboo or controversial issues, such as the Arab Spring and self-immolation as a form of protest. Sutton Theatres Executive Director Beri Juraic said, "One of the key messages of the festival is to actually change people's misconceptions about the region.

"It is important to give a platform for the voices to be heard, especially those of younger generations, and theatre is one of the best places to do so. In the current climate and with so much negativity in the media, it is important for us to open up a dialogue based on mutual respect rather than making rushed comments.

The World Sleeps in an Arab Woman
The World Sleeps in an Arab Woman was performed as part of the Marhaba Magreb festival Sutton Theatres

"It seems to me that this is the only way to solve the crisis. It is easy for artists and programmers to say that the audiences don't want to see work that deals with taboo or difficult issues."

The festival included End/Ignified by Algerian company Cie El-Ajouad, which was written by journalist Mustapha Benfodil. It deals with self-immolation and self-harm during the Arab Spring.

Kheireddine Lardjam, the Cie El-Ajouad Artistic Director, said, "I was shocked before in the Arab countries, before Tunisia, before Bouasisi the young man who set himself on fire, there were a lot of young men who set themselves on fire in Algeria. There were even in Algeria 176 young people who set themselves on fire. I was shocked so I started working on that."

"Theatre for me, in my opinion, has to show what we can't see. Us in the media, with the journalists, we have seen the bodies on fire. I want to show what we do not see. Why? How do we get to this point?" he added.

Other shows included Plastic, by choreographer Meher Awachri, an Arabic translation of Hamlet, and The World Sleeps in an Arab Woman, also by Cie El-Ajouad.