Monde.com (Facebook)

Les Brigittines

24, 25, 26, 27, 28/05 – 20:30
FR / NL / EN / ES / Arab (no subtitles)
1h 25min

He conquered the performing arts world last season with his multi-award winning show Irakese Geesten. After training at the National Theatre of Baghdad and taking a roundabout way to get here, the young Iraqi director Mokhallad Rasem has now found a home at the Monty in Antwerp. His country, however, is theatre. In his latest creation, Monde.com (Facebook), he takes people who have come from a variety of different places and experienced all kinds of journeys and brings them together around a cinematographic device. They only have a video cassette left of their own lives: childhood memories, periods of love or suffering, experiences of war or loneliness… A cultural chasm separates them, but Rasem removes these differences without ever lapsing into clichés. The people inhabiting Monde.com (Facebook) attempt to re-edit their lives. Can traumas be cut from their memory? Can memories be put back together again? To construct this collective show, Rasem links words, images, sound and movement. Monde.com (Facebook) is a deeply personal exploration of the sacrifices that need to be accepted if dreams are to become reality…

Direction
Mokhallad Rasem

Direction assistant
Ahmed Khaled

Text
Mokhallad Rasem & Birsen Taspinar

Performed by
Duraid Abbas, Jessa Wildemeersch, Sarah Eisa, Ahmed Khaled, Lore Uyttendaele, Mokhallad Rasem

Music
Roeland Luyten

Set design
Mokhallad Rasem

Costumes
Jelle Spruyt

Video
Hamdan Saray

Presentation
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Les Brigittines

Production
Monty (Antwerpen)

Coproduction
Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Productiehuis Rotterdam (Rotterdamse Schouwburg), Theaterformen Hannover

Supported by
Theater Aan Zee (Oostende)

Special thanks to
Les Brigittines

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Mokhallad Rasem, 12 April 2011

Everyone has their own video-cassette showing their life story. The film you see when you think your life is at an end. The life you received from your mother, and the life you yourself lead.

What is the film of your life like?

Is it rational or romantic? Violent or funny? Or is it a dull film? Or an absurd one?

Your inner editor brings together all the everyday impressions and all the different voices inside you. Your dialogical self fuses all your experiences into a life-story. This assembly process enables us to represent our lives as a complex, coherent and layered whole. Images and voices from several worlds meet each other at a crossroads. Sudden changes of direction sometimes bring about actual collisions inside one person. But how do you assemble all these pieces to make a single, fluent whole?

What would you like to cut out? Are there parts that have to be freed from pain? Perhaps you would have preferred everything in a different order.

Are there scenes that cannot tolerate the complexity you find yourself in?

Or do you wonder how you can make your film interesting when you consider there is nothing going on?

Are there moments of stillness which are nevertheless heavy with meaning?

How can you convey the intensity of a life without rest?

What effects do you have to use to convert deafening sounds into silence?

When we run away from a particular reality, whatever it may be, we mourn. We have to look for new meanings and a new language. Which language does the film of your life need to alleviate the conflicts inside you?

It is now 8.30 pm in Belgium and 10.30 pm in the country where civilisation was born. How do you depict two hours’ time difference? How can a time difference of two hours come together in a single excerpt? Or in a single person? Can you write from my point of view using your point of view and memories? Will I hear the sounds of war in your body? Will our lips read the trembling of fear.

Second part anthropologist: My film isn’t finished yet. Maybe you might have some influence on the genesis of new pieces? How can I show your reflection in me? Perhaps I am afraid that you would enable an as yet unknown voice inside me to speak. How can I show you a single person without denying the various parts of myself? Perhaps you don’t even dare watch my film? How can I show you my video film without seeing that one look that I’m fed up with?

Without becoming the troublesome other?

Perhaps you can hear the cries of a dying voice in me? How can I help you keep Babylon and Sumeria in my life-film, in our life-films?

Career

The theatre-maker Mokhallad Rasem was born in Baghdad in 1981. He inherited the passion for theatre from his father, the well-known actor Rasem Al Jumaily. When he trained as an actor and director in Baghdad, the focus was mainly on the history of European theatre, from the Greeks, through Shakespeare and Molière, to Brecht and contemporary theatre. (The history of Arabic theatre was only covered in one single subject. This is linked to the fact that until 1932 Iraq was a British Mandate.) During the same period he was given his first opportunity to direct his first plays at the National Theatre in Baghdad, where a wide variety of directors worked. He based his plays on works from the European canon, such as Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus and Strindberg’s Dream Play.

From 2001 to 2005 Mokhallad Rasem was a member of the Fadaa El Timrien El Moustemer company (Continuous Training Space Workshop) in Baghdad. For their play Sorry, Sir, I didn’t mean it, they won the prize for the best play at the International Experimental Theatre Festival in Cairo in 2004. In 2005 the company toured Germany at the invitation of Roberto Ciulli (Theater an der Ruhr, Mülheim). Since the situation in Iraq was extremely dangerous, Mokhallad Rasem then decided to stay in Europe. He finally ended up in Belgium, where he found a workplace at the Monty arts centre in Antwerp. But his true native country will always be theatre.

Last season Rasem gained a place for himself on the international performing arts scene with Irakese Geesten (Iraqi Ghosts), a play about the impact of recent wars in Iraq on the past, present and future of his own generation. The play was selected for the Flemish Theaterfestival in 2010 and won the KBC Creation Prize at Theater Aan Zee in 2010: “for the craft and drive with which a personal life-experience can be shared by means of images that are as ambiguous as they are telling.” (from the jury report). De Standaard newspaper called it “By far the greatest surprise of the past season: a handling of the war in Iraq in ten performance-like scenes. Either presented as an Oscar award ceremony, or as a beanfeast on huge plates of food: it turns out that the subject of ‘war’, which is impossible to capture, can actually yield impressive theatre.”

In March 2011, at the invitation of the XS Festival at the Théâtre National in Brussels, he created a 25-minute play entitled (Mijn Paradijs) Ritueel. Droom. ((My Paradise) Ritual. Dream). In the 2011-12 season he will be developing this piece into a full play, and will also present Caligula, based on the now classic play by Albert Camus.

Mokhallad Rasem on Monde.com (Facebook)

“There is an exceptional background to this creation: in two previous projects I started from the same basic ideas. In late 2009 Monty invited me to make a piece lasting about half an hour for HIT THE STAGE, a format for work in progress. For me this was a great opportunity to show my work as a director here in Belgium. I called the project BagdadBelgië.com and worked with sixteen amateur performers. Working with amateurs requires a different method, a different approach. You come into contact with other people, a world different from the one where you usually work. It was a very enriching experience. We had a minimal budget for design, but everyone worked on the basis of tremendous enthusiasm. That sort of commitment is marvellous and brings about a different sort of creativity. It’s good to have money, of course, but it certainly isn’t a condition for creating something good. In fact money often also brings about other relationships and even tensions. The try-out was well received, and I was given the chance to continue work on it. That’s how BagdadBelgië.com came about, which I worked on with the actors Ahmed Khaled, Jessa Wildemeersch and Sarah Eisa. In June 2010 it was invited to the SIWA Festival at Peter Brooks theatre Les Bouffes du Nord in Paris. I am making Monde.com (Facebook) with the same team plus two new actors: Duraid Abbas and Lore Uyttendaele.”

“Of course I want to make Monde.com (Facebook) as powerful as possible, but with this material I am actually more concerned with a method, several versions of which I examine and explore in greater depth. The first play gave rise to the other two. After Monde.com (Facebook), I could apply the same method to yet another group of performers, in any cultural setting. After all, I start out from the lives of the performers themselves, and in this way end up naturally at such universal concepts as love, death, sex, war and so on. We start improvising on the basis of their personal emotional and physical archives. I also have a psychologist working with me, who watches rehearsals and makes suggestions for new directions or questions that may trigger something in the actors. All this material is then given its place in the basic structure I drew up at the start of rehearsals.

Which intense stages of your life rise to the surface? Which moments would you most like to forget, erase, or replace by other memories? What sort of film would your life be? A war film? A tragic-comedy? A thriller? What clichés do you come across in your life? For me and my Iraqi friends it’s mainly that image of war, of a broken country, of life under a dictatorship. That’s all correct of course, but it’s such a one-sided view of our country and our lives. After all, Belgium is more than beer, chips and chocolate, isn’t it?”

“The change of title also implies a shift in meaning. BagdadBelgië.com started out very much with cultural differences. BagdadMonde.com was more concerned with ‘our’ relationship as Iraqi’s with the rest of the world. In Monde.com (Facebook) I want to open it all up. As a director I also ask myself more and more questions about my position towards others, and about my place in the world. After all, the theatre is a sort of miniature society, and a director coordinates a group of individuals, challenges them, gives them courage and confidence. But of course sometimes it can be dictatorial too…” (laughs)

“Identity is a recurring element in my work. There’s an Iraqi saying: ‘We all come out of the same hole.’ Life lies open in front of us, but the world is constantly changing your life. Your family, your country, your religion and so many other factors shape your identity. How can you handle all this? To what extent can you change your own identity? That explains the reference to Facebook, for so many people the ideal medium through which to determine their own identity ‘for themselves’. In this production we are also using puppets, which personify the various people or characters that reside inside us all. In Iraq we say ‘Your shadow is more honest than yourself’.”

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Mokhallad Rasem was involved as a director and actor with the National Theatre of Bagdad. He has worked as a theatre-maker for several years in Antwerp. In April 2010 he created Irakese Geesten, a play on the impact of recent wars in Irak on the past, present and future of Rasem’s generation, at Theatre Monty. Irakese Geesten was selected for the Flemish Theatre Festival 2010 and won the KBC Creative Award for Young Theatre at Theater Aan Zee 2010. The production was also nominated at the Cutting Edge Awards for Best Theatre Representation in 2010.

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