Articles, Reviews, Volume 5

Mohammad al-Attar’s While I was Waiting at Avignon

Mohammad al-Attar's While I was Waiting at Avignon
A Theatre Review by Philippa Wehle
Arab StagesVolume 5, Number 1 (Fall 2016) 
©2016 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Mohammad al-Attar is among the best known young Syrian dramatists.  Born in Damascus, he studied in London and now lives in Berlin.  His first play, the 2007 Withdrawal, was widely produced in Europe and the Middle East.  Subsequent dramas turned toward explorations of the upheavals in his native country.  Could You Please Look into the Camera? Dealt with the experiences of political detainees in Syria.  It was first presented, for one night only, on June 16, 2012, at the Sunflower theatre in Beirut and has been widely produced internationally.  His play Intimacy was first presented at the Homeworks Festival in Beirut in 2013 today (see Arab Stages, volume 1).   It then toured to Germany and Switzerland, where it won the Zürcher Kartonalbank Prize for outstanding independent theatre and through much of Europe, including most notably the Avignon Festival.  The following report, which is also appearing in our sister journal, European Stages, as a part of an essay on this year’s Avignon Festival, was created by Philippa Wehle.

From Syria, Mohammad al-Attar’s play Alors que j’attendais (While I was waiting ), directed by Omar Abusaada, gave audiences a chance to enter into the tragic lives and losses of a modest Syrian family.  Set in Damascus between 2015 and 2016, the play introduces us to Taim, a young man who has been beaten into a coma and his family and friends who try to make sense of what has happened to him.  The set is composed of a two tiered structure allowing us to be with Taim in his hospital room below with a bed and IV fluids as well as follow the young man on a platform above with a table and microphones. The lifeless body of Taim, a young Syrian of 30, lies on the bed as the play opens.  Overhead a parallel world offers Taim’s spirit the chance to tell what happened to him and to interact with his friend Omar with whom he had shared the heady days of revolution and hope in 2011.  Omar has also left this world.

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