13, 17, 18 Mei/Mai/May 20:00
14 Mei/Mai/May 18:00
Duur/Durée/Duration: 1:10
Europese première/Première européenne/European première
Taal/Langue/Language: Arabisch/arabe/Arabic
Simultaanvertaling/Traduction simultanée/Simultaneous translation: Nl & Fr

In Tunisia, Slim Sanhaji has tried his hand at all aspects of theatre. He has been involved in the adventure of Habib Ichbil's Théâtre Triangul and the quests of Fadel Jaïbi, Mohamed Driss and Tawfik Jibali who, following the events of 1968, breathed new life into Tunisian theatre. Now Slim is coming out from behind the scenes, having written and directed his first play, Safar (Journey). Mortadha, Etroudi and Kenza meet up every day in a public park. Here they dream, become restless, stammer and quibble, their memory incomplete. "My play is about the great expectation of a generation with an immense desire to jump and no trampoline to bounce off." Slim has recreated the atmospheres around him, and the warm poetry of his Beckett-like expectation unfurls with touching simplicity.

Tekst en dramaturgie/Texte et dramaturgie/Text and dramaturgy: Sabah Bouzouita, Slim Sanhaji
Regie, scenografie en licht/Mise en scène, scénographie et lumières/Direction, scenography and lighting: Slim Sanhaji
Regie-assistent/Assistant à la mise en scène/Assistant to the director: Amel Karray
Acteurs/Actors: Sabah Bouzouita (Kinza), Nôman Hamda (Troudi), Hédi Abass (Mourtadha)
Technisch Directeur/Régisseur général/Technical Director: Kamel Sassi, Lotfi Kammoum
Doek/Toile/Painting: Mohsen Raïs
Productie/Production: Artis production (Tunis)
Met de steun van/Avec le soutien de/With the support of: le Ministère des Affaires Culturelles (Tunis)
Presentatie/Présentation/Presentation: KunstenFESTIVALdesArts

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Dawn gives birth to the day that dies at night. Another daybreak, a new day that twilight will again evade. Every sunrise, Mourtadha, Troudi and Kinza meet in the same place. They are young, yet already old. Until the sun sets, their words come out in a wildly fluctuating torrent because talking kills time. They have no memory of anything. Numbed by a vain expectation, their spirits overheat and get carried away.

Safar (Journey), by Tunis-based Slim Sanhaji, delves into the theatre of the absurd to tell, in his bare and metaphorical way, of something that concerns him greatly: all around him is the hot air from ardent conversations that is merely a front for unproductive confusion in the face of a lack of perspectives. Performed in everyday Arabic, the play's journey to nowhere reflects the sweet exuberance of Mediterranean Tunisia. It also evokes, more universally, the impasse of existences that lack evolution, borrowing the disorientated banality of dialogue from Ionesco and, from Beckett, the erring way of decaying thought. In the Tunisian landscape, Slim Sanhaji is a sensitive craftsman. He does not set out to dazzle. He expresses and puts into delicate images the deep feeling of a generation in a production that is discreet, poetical and without pretension.

In Tunis, every day, morning and night, starlings lay siege to the trees in the wide promenade of Bourguiba Avenue. They swirl around and their twittering drowns out the conversations held on the café terraces. In the dark space of the theatre, an artificial sun rises and directs its warm rays onto a painted park, the ground strewn with dead leaves, a forlorn bench and two inviting garden chairs around a little white round table. The setting exudes the last sweetness of a golden Indian summer. It encourages daydreams. There are fragrances of opera - Farinelli's voice unfurls, mesmerising in its beauty. Two men in suits sit down, get up, and change places, undecided. Silence. Each alone, they are engrossed in their thoughts, then, with some difficulty, articulate a few words to start off the subject of a first exchange. The subject is clouds. Suddenly, in their eyes, the clouds become goats, cows, gazelles, and lions with wide-open mouths, tails and teeth missing. Time passes. They remain seated. Their discussion becomes more pointed. Rubbish, chatter, vague desires and little irritations. Only the scenery moves, like the earth slowly revolving, without them noticing it.

"Safar is first and foremost our own expectation. Kinza, the play's female character, says to the two others, ‘If you look ahead of you, what do you see? Nothing.' The play has taken three and a half years to put on. It's taken all that time to find a place to create in and money to back it. Safar is also the expectation of the generation following me with its immense desire to jump and no trampoline to bounce off. I can see this generation wearing itself out by running around without getting anywhere. They want to build the future without knowing anything about their past. My play is about these young people and their latent boredom. It's poison. But it can also stimulate the imagination. Talking about it places the journey on the inside. In any case, the way the play is written is very open and gives the audience the freedom to make their own way through it. Lots of people here are also worried about progress - how should they live alongside modern technology and developments in science? They think about it but in an old-fashioned way. Like them, the characters in Safar feel out of date and sometimes they do bad things, like cats putting out their claws when you approach. Aggressiveness allows them to survive. Their nervousness is more impulsive than violent. Inside, they're just kids."

Safar is Slim Sanhaji's first play and it is the first time he has directed. With his old friends, actors Sabah Bouzouita (Kinza), Nôman Hamda (Troudi) and Hédi Abass (Mourtadha), he has been involved in Tunisian theatre for almost 20 years. He got the taste for it at school where his childhood was steeped in performing at a very active time thanks to the interest shown in theatre by independent Tunisia's first president, Habib Bourguiba. When he finished school he assiduously took part in burgeoning amateur theatre groups and was involved in the emergence of the Théâtre Triangule of Habib Ichbil, painter and teacher at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts. His friends left to study cinema in Brussels and Lodz and drama in Italy and France. Slim stayed in Tunis, working with people older than he, a generation that came out of May 1968, rebelling against the kind of institutional theatre personalised by Ali Ben Hayad. One of Vilar's great actors, he founded the Tunis theatre company, Troupe de la Ville, and put on classical works in the style of Chaillot's Théâtre national populaire.

Alongside the young Fadel Jaïbi (Familia Production) and Mohamed Driss, currently director of the Théâtre National de Tunis, and the radical Tawfik Jibali, Slim learned about all aspects of theatre, or rather the aspect that comes from working behind the scenes to develop all aspects of creation. He observed and he liked writing bits and pieces, fragments of situations, with his actor friends, yet did not want to launch his own career. He was also a member of the team producing the Carthage theatre festival. This self-taught man then taught at ISAD, the college for dramatic arts. In 1998, no longer able to ignore his desire, he made the move. Safar was born on stage. With it, Slim does not claim to be revolutionising theatre but to be talking, very simply, about what is going on around him. With next to nothing he has brought emotion to the surface. His approach to acting carves out movement as much as space and time: little, active and suspended movements, syncopated pronunciation that he brings to his dialogues whose humour and moods « mask confusion ». For Slim, "Mourtadha and Troudi are like swallows. Suddenly, without thinking, they find themselves executing the same tiny gestures. From sunrise to sunset they are caught up in a way of doing things that is habitual and that repeats itself the next day. They barely move from their chairs. Before dawn and when the characters' night begins, for a prologue and epilogue I wanted music that reached for the sky. Because man has to see - and dream - big."

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