London’s Theatre of The East


The Arab British Centre and Dr Johnson’s House, neighbouring organisations based in Gough Square in the City of London, announced the launch of their collaborative project London’s Theatre of The East in November 2019. The project invited artists, researchers and the public to (re)examine the historical connections of the Middle East and North Africa and London, via the lens of Dr Johnson’s 1749 play, Irene, set during the fall of Constantinople.

Four artists, designers and writers – Nour Hage, Hannah Khalil, Lena Naassana and Saeida Rouass – were commissioned to respond to the historical context and content of the play, with the support of academic advisors including Professor Jerry Brotton, author of This Orient Isle. The artists examined the period and influential encounters between London and the region from the 16th century onward, when Queen Elizabeth I first started trading with Muslim nations. Their responses were showcased in an exhibit at Dr Johnson’s House and was accompanied by a series of public activities including performances and workshops.

Audiences visited Dr Johnson’s House from 8 November 2019 to 15 February 2020 to explore the largely hidden histories of trade and migration, their impact on society and culture, and the subsequent ripples into the present day.

London’s Theatre of The East is part of the Arab British Centre’s ARAB BRITAIN programme, and was supported by The City of London Corporation.

About Arab Britain

Arab Britain is a long-term programme by The Arab British Centre that sets out to explore and document the history, achievements and experiences of Arabs in Britain. The programme aims to overturn preconceptions and challenge prejudices, retrace the ways the Arab world has influenced and shaped British culture and society, and celebrate the contributions of Arabs in Britain, past and present.