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Farewell to our leading ‘smile maker’

The Arab world has lost a pioneering artist who could effortlessly make his audience laugh
Gulf News

He was larger than life with a long and successful career. But he finally had to rest. His heart was no longer able to bear the pain and misery around him, which he had fiercely resisted and tried to make sense of it to all of us through his plays.

As we bid Abdul Hussain Abdul Redha farewell, we remember the legendary Kuwaiti actor — who died in London yesterday at the age of 78 — as the intellectual comedian who not only made us laugh for decades, but also forced us to think deeply about the issues he raised: From corruption, outdated habits and traditions to concerns and daily problems of the middle class.

In one of his most famous plays, Bye Bye London, he had exposed the extravagant spending and puerile behaviour of Gulf tourists in London, shortly after the first boom years. But he also used the play to shine the light on inter-Arab conflicts, a theme he kept coming back to in his other works such as Bye Bye Arab and Saif Al Arab, in which he comically put the disastrous policies of former Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussain on trial on stage.

On the other hand, Abdul Hussain personified the frustrated working class with a twist of comedy noir, as he did in the classic Darb Al Zalaq, which is being rerun on most Gulf TV stations even 40 years after its production.

The Arab world yesterday lost a pioneering artist who effortlessly made us laugh. He was often called the ‘smile maker’ by critics and fans. But he was also a leading example of an artist who had lived and echoed his nation’s pain, conflicts and hopes. Abdul Hussain has certainly left a vacuum that will never be filled.

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