Mchouga-Maboul. Photo: Theatre
Articles, Essays, Volume 7

The Theatrical Work Mchouga-Maboul: A Plunge into Moroccan Memory

The Theatrical Work Mchouga-Maboul: A Plunge into Moroccan Memory
By Lalla Nouzha Tahiri
Arab Stages, Volume 7 (Fall, 2017) 
©2017 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

The author of this work is playwright Simon Elbaz, who is a native of Boujaâd in Morocco but has settled in France. Author, composer, and actor, he is the author of Mchouga-Maboul: Theatre versus Matrouz.[1]The Matrouz genre implies an artistic creation based on the intersection of languages ​​and music, Matrouz being an Arabic word that means interwoven. This genre is characterized by the association of poetry and music and the mixture of languages ​​inherited from the traditions of Andalusia. Given the distance of the playwright Simon Elbaz, now living in France, from his native Morocco and, given also his contact with other cultures, his theatrical work represents a real plunge into a collective memory. The return to a Moroccan past—a recurring theme of this study—is only done from another country and after a long separation. The encounter with the other, the distance from home, even the loss of the place of origin has made this work both a memorial and a dramatic performance, where the polyphonic indices contributing to its development, symbolizes the meeting between the past in the place of origin and the present in the host country.

Reading the work, one realizes the considerable work of memory which uses both the narrative and dramatic mode and which employs various constituent elements (singing, music, dance, story, trance, proverb, insult, the grotesque, parody) as well as various speaking modes (spiritual, political, historical, national). The author creates a dramatic atmosphere through which he manages to offer a dual aspect of his characters (the storyteller and Mchouga) and to draw first a sketch of Moroccan culture that is meant to be general, but also a more specific picture of the Judeo-Moroccan memory. One wonders then if memory is used here to reinforce the theatrical representation of the place or if it is the place, lost and imagined, which comes to the aid of the memory, since both evolve between memory and history.

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