Theatre, a school for civic values
Adel Habbassi - 03/07/2012
El Hamra Theatre and the CAAFRT (Arab-African Centre for Training and Theatre Research)1 continue to provide counselling and training for youth interested in various theatre careers. The program of this 54th initiative, which took place from the 28th of May to the 9th of June, included training workshops for actors and writers. On Saturday 9th of June 2012, El Hamra and CAAFRT organised a public presentation of the work accomplished during the twelve days of workshops.
Between an airport where the waiting sharpens aches and characters, and a theatre that is reflected in its spectators, the art scene continues to give us reasons to fight and hope for a wildly free humanity. Subtly watermarked in the proceedings of this workshop, the Tunisian and Arab news did not fail to inspire students and their teachers.
During this workshop, Ezzeddine Gannoun has been able to rely on the know-how of different collaborators. Conducted by Leila Toubel, the activities of the drama workshop highlighted the sense of sharing that is the basis of theatre creativity: the back and forth between the texts of the trainees and the performance laboratory showed that the production of a dramatic script is the result of meticulous work carried out with the actors. Metamorphoses and changes were also brought by the work carried out by the anatomical structure of Cyrine Gannoun Mannai. The importance of these anatomical exercises and their contribution to the final dramaturgical work were visible in the show that opened the performance. Produced with the trainees, this performance was a challenge: how does one deal with the imperfections of very little synchronized body movements to come up with quality work? We can only guess the number of hours given and the burst of energy needed to succeed these transformations.
Humanity as a “sum of all identities”
Set in an airport, the first performance offers a world in which the otherness clashes and attracts. In order to highlight this framework, Ezzeddine Gannoun has left the performance open to all possibilities. The late arrival of a flight reveals fragments and pieces of lives suffering adrift. Worked by the tension of waiting, the characters reveal themselves through a set of interposed mirrors. The space of the airport terminal turns into a sort of arena where paths cross each other. The resulting encounters crystallize hate and love, union and separation, solitude and communion.
In this essentially plural place, “identities” are only mentioned to be dislocated. The sound explosions of the encounters with the Other create a small miracle, the fusion of accents and foreign words: French, English, Arabic and Lebanese, Tunisian, and Moroccan dialects overlap without dissonance. The extraordinary melting pot of languages and dialects coming from different cultures also highlight the extreme variety of expectations that decipher this theatrical metaphor of travel and exile, potential and realms.
This airport is also the scene of a constantly changing world. The exclamation of a character who emerges summarizes the poetic theatre that governs the mixing of these continuously "seeded", "stateless ... [...] I am the sum of all identities banned here, there ... damn!" ties. Through the allusion to the plight of African immigrants, we distinguish the endless wandering of people in search of their human roots. The ontological dimension of uprooting transfigures the airport in a “no man's land” where the bodies and the sentences are suspended in space and time. The echoes of our sick world are perceptible in this transitional space. The flowers of the "Arab Spring" show some spines. The abduction of childhood innocence brings us back to the heart of an unfolding tragedy.
Citizens, it’s time to go to the theatre…!
The second performance presented to the CAAFART participants consists of the adaptation of a text written by Karl Valentin in the 1930’s. “Why are theatres empty? Whose fault is it?” The two questions open the performance by engaging the audience and the actors in an exchange where the theatre becomes a living matter. The fluidity of the game introduces a contagious essential dialogue: “Why don’t we introduce theatre... as compulsory school?” The answer to this question becomes urgent at a time when our senses are obsessed with the dross of consumer culture. This oratory question becomes an answer: “Isn’t theatre a school?”
This question reminds me of the theme of a paper written on Tunisian theatre that I co-authored with Ezzeddine Gannoun (The MagÉco n-2, February 2012). How can theatre professionals make a living in a system where theatre as an art, is linked to economic and industrial development processes? It is possible to fill our theatres by making culture and art a necessary part of our citizenship.
The song of the possible
When I wanted to know more about this reflection on theatre, Ezzeddine Gannoun asked me to condense the meaning in one of the formulas he masters so well: “It is said that theatre is bound to eternity as it is born and dies at the same time ...” The primacy of the theatrical moment that the playwright talks about refers to a fundamental ipseity that unites the artist and his audience in this (brief) intensity of the creative act. However, these words are both instant and paradoxically devoted to “eternity” because they resonate in our hearts and in our consciousness: the dialectic of identity-otherness underpins the work that modulates organic and scenic encounters of the individual (self awareness) and the group (social body).
Performed with actors that are impregnated with cultures, this theatrical fresco is a (conscious) dream through the dramas of life. The polyphony of words is composed with the evils that afflict the world. Only the strength of the final song will succeed in bringing these lost souls together. The highly vocal finale heals the wounds of a traumatic realm. Enveloped by the vibrations of an African gospel, the accents of pain are relayed by those who did not know each other. The act of singing in unison consecrates love and solidarity as supreme values. The communion of exacerbated identities takes place in the melodies of a chorus of voices that puts us on the path towards the other. Thus, despite the disappointments and the half empty rows of seats, theatre continues to open its doors (and arms) to our ideas and wildest dreams.
1 (Centre Arabo-Africain de Formation et de Recherches Théâtrales)
Translated from French by Elizabeth Grech