The Factory. Photo Credit: David Baltzer, 2018.
Volume 10

Arab Dramaturgies on the European Stage: Liwaa Yazji’s Goats (Royal Court Theatre, 2017) and Mohammad Al Attar’s The Factory (PACT Zollverein, 2018)

A goat for a life; a factory for a nation. Liwaa Yazji’s  Goats and Mohammad Al Attar’s The Factory both draw on events that have occurred in Syria since 2010, whilst continuously questioning and challenging international politics and, on a more social level, the worth of human life. Yazji’s and Al Attar’s play inquire what happens when answers are demanded and the individual takes center stage in a brutal regime-ruled environment. This paper will analyze the question of human agency in destabilized Arab countries and their theatrical representation outside of the Arab world, by looking at two plays that can be read as documentary theatre, influenced by theories of the theatre of the oppressed and Brechtian dramaturgies and infused by (auto)biographical narratives. Thus, these plays, performed on the European stage, ultimately function at the intersection of political activism and artistic expression of trauma narratives. Liwaa Yazji’s Goats and Mohammad Al-Attar’s The Factory are relevant in this discussion for their complex constructions as well as their similarities and differences. Aside from both dramatic texts drawing on events that occurred in Syria since 2010, their respective use of theatre as an instrument to address and maybe even change issues in the political, economic and social environment is noteworthy. In both plays’ theatre becomes a benevolent weapon that calls upon its audiences not only to witness, but to listen and consequently to act.

Mohammad Al Attar’s The Factory (2018)

Mohammad Al Attar is considered, by theater critics, one of the most important Syrian artists today. His widely acclaimed work has been staged in America, Europe and across the Middle East. Although plays such as Could You Please Look Into the Camera (2012) have been staged in Beirut, Lebanon and other Arabic countries, his work remains controversial. His texts are works of fiction but are always anchored in verbatim and non-fictional source material. Thus, Al Attar’s work, usually directed by his longtime creative associate Omar Abusaada, must be read as a political opposition against the Assad regime and the ruling ISIS. Oscillating between the individual and the society, personal narratives and historical facts, the private, intimate and the public, all of his plays ultimately address human tragedies. Al Attar’s work continuously strives to make the devastation of human actions visible. The Factory, which premiered August 2018 at PACT Zollverein in Essen as part of this year’s Ruhrfestspiele in Germany, is no different from his earlier work, and follows Al Attar’s continuous quest to uncover atrocities.

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