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Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 19 November 2018

Saq Al Bamboo is a realistic and riveting social drama with a stellar cast

Saq Al Bamboo (The Bamboo Stalk) – based on the 2013 International Prize for Arabic ­Fiction-winning novel by ­Kuwaiti writer Saud Alsanousi – is ­turning out just as we thought: a riveting, socially relevant and exceptionally produced series with strong talent to back it up.
Wonho Chung, left, in Saq Al Bamboo. Courtesy MBC
Wonho Chung, left, in Saq Al Bamboo. Courtesy MBC

Saq Al Bamboo (The Bamboo Stalk) – based on the 2013 International Prize for Arabic ­Fiction-winning novel by ­Kuwaiti writer Saud Alsanousi – is ­turning out just as we thought: a riveting, socially relevant and exceptionally produced series with strong talent to back it up.

The first three episodes, ­although a little slow, was mainly focused on setting up the story.

Young Josephine, played by Filipino actress Mercedes Cabral, leaves her home, studies and family near Manila to travel to Kuwait and work as a maid in the large household of a prominent family where the matriarch, Ghanima (played by renowned Kuwait actress Souad Abdullah), rules ­supreme.

Josephine and Ghanima’s only son, Rashid, fall in love and decide to secretly marry, after which Josephine ­becomes pregnant.

Scandalised, Ghanima kicks her son and his Filipino wife out. “Forget this house,” she tells him.

Rashid sends Josephine and their child, Issa, away to the Philippines.

The show then jumps ahead 18 years. Rashid has been missing for years following Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, and Issa – who has lived his entire life in the Philippines as Jose, listening to stories about how wonderful Kuwait is from his mother – sets off for Kuwait City in search of his family.

Portrayed heartbreakingly by the Dubai-based, ­Arabic-speaking, Korean comedian Wonho Chung, Issa is seen struggling with his identity. He is also conflicted, as he attempts to reconcile the modern hustle and bustle of Kuwait with the idyllic image his mother had painted for him of the land of his birth.

Will Ghanima, and the rest of his Kuwaiti family ever accept him as one of their own – or will he always be “the maid’s son”?

With the quality and the ­penetrating storytelling on offer, Saq Al Bamboo should keep viewers riveted throughout the month.

Saq Al Bamboo is on MBC Drama at 4pm each day. Watch previous episodes on Shahid.net

artslife@thenational.ae