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Where Theatre Has Failed—The Syrians Omar Abusaada and Mohammad Al Attar

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Despite, or exactly because of such absurdity, Intimacy tells the story of an actor’s life as a comedy or rather as a life-farce. It could not be otherwise, given the mischievous and impish character that Yaser portrays on stage. He turns up drunk to rehearsals on more than one occasion, whether he is acting or directing. Whether the story of this unreliable, egocentric, but also charismatic and somehow lovable survival artist is a true representation of Yaser Abdellatif’s life, or whether it has been imaginatively fictionalized by Mohammad Al Attar, remains one of the secrets of this production.

At any rate, Omar Abusaada examines the various possibilities of interpretation in his staging of this (pseudo-?) biographical text. The play consists mainly of interviews and is structured through several dialogue scenes: on the empty stage the two actors—the interviewer Ayham Agha and the interviewee Yaser Abdellatif—start with a reading, as is commonplace at the beginning of the rehearsal process. A particular emphasis provides their reading of the stage directions with the necessary rhetorical quotation marks. The next scene is a conversation at a large wooden table in a workshop. The black curtains are removed from the walls before Abusaada plunges us into yet another scene of a reading, only to put his actors at two microphones like pop singers.

What ensues is a litany of questions from Ayham without answers from Yaser. After another entertaining scene, Ayham lapses into a monologue: he asks questions and also provides Yaser’s answers. This reduced and concentrated textual exercise stands in appealing, even provocative contrast not only to the flippancy of Yaser’s lifestyle in Damascus, but also to the changeful, revolutionary events that force him to open new chapters in his life. The choice of form can be described as a conscious reduction of means, given the impossibility of a realistic depiction of events. The intensity of the actors, however, and the ironical force of the text, give even greater power to the pictures in the audience’s mind.

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