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While I Was Waiting

    24/05  | 20:30
    25/05  | 20:30
    26/05  | 20:30
    27/05  | 20:30
    28/05  | 20:30

€ 16 / € 13
1h 40min
Arab > NL / FR

Rencontrez les artistes après la représentation du 25/05

Omar Abusaada est un metteur en scène indépendant syrien qui vit et travaille à Damas. Au Kunstenfestivaldesarts, il crée un nouveau spectacle en collaboration avec le dramaturge Mohammad Al Attar. L’histoire d'un incident tragique forme le point de départ d’une narration examinant l’impact de la guerre sur la vie d'une famille. Abusaada voit dans le coma du personnage principal une métaphore de la situation en Syrie aujourd’hui : une zone grise entre la vie et la mort. Le subconscient comme ultime moyen de résistance contre les forces de l’oppression… Abusaada, Al Attar et les acteurs expriment l’absurdité de la vie dans une zone en guerre et interrogent la réalité chaotique dans laquelle ils se trouvent. While I Was Waiting affirme le théâtre, vivant, impétueux, comme une bouée de sauvetage face à un réel écorché. Essentiel.

Mise en scène
Omar Abusaada

Mohammad Al Attar

Amal Omran, Mohammad Alarashi, Nanda Mohammad, Fatina Laila, Mouiad Roumieh, Mohamad Al Refai

Bissane Al Charif

Hasan Albalkhi

Reem Al Ghazzi

Samer Saem Eldahr (Hello Psychaleppo)

Direction technique
Camille Mauplot

Construction décors
Sylvain Georget & Patrick Vindimian

Henri Jules Julien

Kunstenfestivaldesarts, Théâtre la Balsamine

Festival d’Avignon, Napoli Teatro Festival, AFAC (Arab Fund for Art and Culture), Pôle Arts de la scène - Friche La Belle de Mai Marseille, Theater Spektakel Zürich, Onassis Cultural Centre Athens, Vooruit Gent, La Batie Festival de Genève, Les Bancs publics / Les Rencontres à l’échelle Marseille, Festival d'Automne à Paris

Avec le soutien de
La Criée Marseille, Le Tarmac Paris

Sous-titrage soutenu par

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While I Was Waiting

I first discussed the story of While I Was Waiting with Omar in October 2015 whilst we were in Tunis working on a theatre play with children from a marginalised area on the outskirts of the old city. Our journey with the children of the Al-Khariba neighbourhood was primarily a search for hope in extremely difficult circumstances. They came from poor families whose parents worked hard to earn a living in harsh conditions within a socially conservative environment. The questions we were pondering were: How could these children break the vicious cycle that conditioned their lives? How could they keep hoping and resist their harsh fates? Answers came successively as we worked with them, through games, stories, dreams, and imaginations that had not yet been tamed by the pessimistic realism of the adults. Once more, theatre was our means to comprehend the grim reality around us in a different way and to push for change, even a little bit. Among the Arab countries that witnessed the Arab Spring, Tunisia is the sole example of a successful attempt at political change. Yet it was clear that the situation there was still difficult and its stability fragile. However, the process of change had started and was worth building on.

In parallel, the situation in Syria was becoming increasingly complex and was worsening. The regime’s excessive violence against protesters transformed the peaceful revolution against the most brutal dictatorship in the region into a fierce war, which soon turned into a proxy war waged at an international and regional level without involving the Syrians. In this horrible picture there are still Syrians in the country or in the diaspora who are trying to resist death and displacement. Their resistance, in its most instinctive form, lies in their insistence on surviving and in their refusal to give up the dream of positive change; they refuse to choose between Asad’s military fascism that has ruled the country for half a century and the religious fascism represented by ISIS and the like.

For Syrians such as Omar Abusaada and myself, theatre is our way to cling to hope and to resist despair. This has given us a renewed impetus to reflect on the meaning of theatre today: what can it say and how? Before Tunis, we had performed the play Antigone of Shatila in Lebanon, another exquisite journey with Syrian and Palestinian-Syrian women living in miserable camps on the outskirts of Beirut. For more than three months we worked with the people, with the intention of presenting a contemporary adaptation of Antigone of Sophocles. The women had been forcibly displaced from different parts of Syria, during which they lost their most precious possessions. Some of them lost sons and brothers. Today they live in extremely harsh conditions in miserable camps. Despite this, their work revealed an insistence to resist these conditions and create a better reality for themselves and for their families. The similarity between their stories and part of Antigone’s story did not inspire any of them to follow their tragic fate. “With time, I understood that the part of Antigone that is inside each of us was the stubborn part that wanted to live, not to die”, says Esraa, one of the actors, during the performance.

If theatre is our space within which to defend hope without embellishing reality and our tool to fight despair without ignoring facts, why then we are performing a play about a ‘coma’? Why have we decided to start from a premise that might appear pessimistic? A young man in his late-20s falls into a lengthy coma after having been brutally beaten by unknown assailants in Damascus. I think the answer lies in the question itself. The more our reality deteriorates and the scenes in Syria become increasingly violent and bloody, the more we need to know about the conditions of ordinary people hiding behind the images transmitted to our television screens. Let’s assume that those who attend the performance in Europe will ask themselves these questions before entering the theatre: ‘What do we know about Syria today? What’s really going on there and why?’ I am confident, following my recent move to Berlin, that most of the answers will come from the info conveyed via news channels and newspapers. Syria features in videos and images of murder and destruction and of ISIS, the scarecrow that all forces know how to use for their own interests. Syria is, of course, about the refugee crisis, which is portrayed in the media as a crisis without context and cause! We read about thousands of people who risk their lives to cross into Europe, but we only discuss how to organise their reception, what borders to close and what borders to open. We only discuss how to get Turkey to curb the tide of refugees and the best integration policies for those able to reach Europe. However, we rarely talk about how to end the crisis at its origin. How can warplanes and helicopters continue dropping primitive bombs or barrels of TNT on civilian communities in the 21st century? Everyone seems to master the management of the war and to figure out how to contain its repercussions, but no one is really interested in ending it.

While I Was Waiting is an attempt to tell the story of a people who are still trying to survive – the story behind the images on screens and in newspapers and beyond the complex political analysis, all of which often ignore the fate of ordinary humans and the deep transformations happening in their lives, thoughts, and beliefs. This is a story of a middleclass family, similar to many families in Damascus and Syria in general. Its members are trying to survive during a time of violence, war, and social change. In this quest, they greatly transform as individuals; some of them decide to engage in long-deferred confrontations while others are content to observe.

It is also the story of the city of Damascus, whose centre has remained under horrific security control by the regime while overwhelming bombardment and siege take place on its outskirts. The city has witnessed countless wars, invasions, and fires throughout its history and is currently witnessing new seasons of violent change. It’s the city in which I was born and grew up, without ever feeling that I understand it well. Omar still insists on living in Damascus and travelling to and from there. As for me, I left against my will in early 2012 and cannot return as long as the Assad regime is in power. My entire family still lives there and the city still lives within me wherever I go. The images of Damascus have been present in my long discussions with Omar and in our tireless attempts to understand its transformations and the future that awaits it. In this endeavour and in our continuous attempts to understand the changes in Syria through theatre, the story of the coma seemed to be the most appropriate framework for comprehending our absurd conditions. Throughout the coma, reality’s cruelty and roughness can merge with our dreams and imaginings, which are our only escape from the harsh reality. The coma also seemed to be an entry point from which to think about the tens of thousands of Syrians who forcibly disappeared or were imprisoned or whose bodies lay somewhere without graves. Taim, who is lying in a coma, watches his family members and friends struggle with the idea of losing him as well as a reality that is becoming fiercer every day. He’s awaiting his fate and trying to understand what he could not understand when he was among them. Waiting may be the only thing that unites them. Like all Syrians, their fate does not appear to be entirely in their hands. They stand in a fragile state between life and death, tears and laughter, survival and departure. Yet they have not completely surrendered to despair, not today at least.

Mohammad Al-Attar
May 2016

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Omar Abusaada (1977) est un metteur en scène syrien. Après avoir achevé ses études de théâtre au High Institute of Dramatic Arts à Damas en 2001, il entame sa carrière de dramaturge et de metteur en scène. En 2004, il monte son premier spectacle, Insomnia, avec la compagnie damascène Studio Theater dont il est un des cofondateurs. Il poursuit ensuite son parcours et met en scène L’Afish (2006), Forgiveness (Samah), un travail d’improvisation avec un groupe de garçons dans une prison pour délinquants juvéniles, et Almirwad Wa Almikhala (2009). Par la suite, il met en scène Look at the Streets, This Is What Hope Looks Like (2011), Could You Please Look Into the Camera? (2012), Intimacy (2013), Syria Trojan Women (2013), et Antigone of Shatila (2014). En Syrie, l’œuvre d’Abusaada introduit des idées différentes sur l’écriture contemporaine, le théâtre documentaire et l’approche théâtrale. Il a longtemps travaillé dans des villages reculés et dans des communautés locales en Syrie, en Égypte et au Yémen. Ses spectacles ont également été à l’affiche de différents festivals internationaux. Abusaada dirige beaucoup d’ateliers dans les domaines de l’écriture théâtrale et la mise en scène contemporaine.

Mohammad Al Attar (1980) est un auteur dramatique et dramaturge syrien. En 2002, il achève ses études de littérature anglaise à l’Université de Damas et en 2007, il obtient un diplôme en études théâtrales au Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts à Damas. Il est également titulaire d’un master en art dramatique de Goldsmiths à Londres, obtenu en 2010. Ses pièces de théâtre Withdrawal (2007), Samah (2008), Online (2011), Look at the Streets, This Is What Hope Looks Like (2012), Could You Please Look into the Camera? (2012), A Chance Encounter (2012), Intimacy (2013), Youssef Was Here (2013), et Antigone of Shatila (2014) ont été jouées à Damas, Londres, New York, Séoul, Berlin, Bruxelles, Édimbourg, Tunis, Athènes, Beyrouth et ailleurs. Certaines de ses œuvres sont traduites et publiées en anglais : Withdrawal, aux éditions Nick Hern Books (GB) et Could You Please Look Into the Camera?, publiée dans le Drama Review Journal (MIT Press, US). Al Attar écrit pour de nombreuses revues et publications, mettant en particulier l’accent sur la récente insurrection syrienne. Outre ses écrits pour la scène, il poursuit son travail théâtral avec des groupes marginalisés à travers le monde arabe.

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