Voices from the hijacked Spring
A new form of logistically light, content rich work, developed in response to the ongoing struggles of the Arab Spring.
A series of short scenes exploring the themes of violence and desire in the contemporary Arab world. Written as a series of mocking, visceral and poetic monologues capturing the voices of individuals caught in the convulsions of change.
Performed in English and Arabic
Duration: 65 minutes without interval
Written and Directed by Sulayman Al Bassam
Scenography/Lighting: Eric Soyer
Composer/Musician: Brittany Anjou
Performed by Rebecca Hart and Hala Omran
Current production made its premiere in Kuwait City at Dar Al Athar Al Islamiyyah on 8, 9 April 2016. Subsequently, it has toured to the 2016 Spring Festival with presentation at the Al Hamra Theater in Tunis on 3 May 2016 and the Sunshine Theater in Beirut, Lebanon on 7 May 2016
Earlier production iterations include:
-a staged reading at Sciences Po, Paris on 26 June 2012 as part of the International Symposium The Arab World in the Age of Revolution: State of Play, with Lebanese underground music icon Yasmine Hamdan, Jack Ellis, Raymond Hosni and Hala Omran.
-a presentation on 8 January 2013 at the York Theatre, Sydney, Australia as part of the Sydney Festival with Raymond Hosni, Hala Omran and guest performer Kym Vercoe.
This piece tracks the unspoken territories of desire, taboo and transgression. The monologues chart the perimeters of experience where the characters are at tipping points in their journies, in contradiction with themselves, moments where they are about to become other than what they were. The figures presented here are not the makers of history, not the demagogues or the revolutionary idealists, nor the tyrants entrenched in bunkers, nor generals jockeying for positions in the aftermath. They are rather ordinary people caught short by the charge of history, either as observers, victims of circumstance, small-scale opportunists or desperate outsiders. They are the collateral characters on the perimeters of experience.
Each of the characters exists in a distinct relationship to the geographies and timelines of the Middle East region following the popular uprisings of 2012. Some, like the character in The Lament of the Young Prostitute, are unwittingly caught up in events at an early point of civil unrest; others, like the sniper from a minority Christian community in Chant of the White Phoenix, are trapped inside the infernal horror of civil war. Nadia is inspired by the moving testimony of a young Yezidi woman, Nadia Murad Basee Taha, delivered to the UN Assembly. In I Let Him In, a young Israeli/American woman is caught in contradiction with the nationalistic discourse she went out to defend. There are outsiders to the region also, like the war journalist in Vertical Vision— inspired by Marie Colvin, the Sunday Times correspondent killed whilst reporting on the siege of Homs in Syria– is consumed by the need to bear witness to the suffering of others. The other outsider’s voice, the marketer in The 153rd in Line, is a viciously satirical one of the opportunist who out of expediency and self interest is the apologist and beautician of a spent autocracy.
The characters are not allegorical figures. They do not represent political forces, national identities, or moral constructs. Rather, they are portraits of individuals locked within interior landscapes as complex and disturbed as the exterior political worlds they inhabit. Gnawed with irrational desire, haunted by other voices, they occupy an ambiguous moral space and represent a dramatist’s curiosity to investigate character and voice within a contemporary landscape.
The exploration of these monologues through voice, music and sound is a continuation of my research into contemporary language and new dramatic forms able to respond both to the current production challenges that reign across most Arab cities (small, cost-effecting formats being the only way to present work outside national borders) and to the fractured, distressed nature of the historical moment the region is passing through.
Sulayman Al Bassam. Kuwait, 2016