By Lina Majdalanie, Mazen Kerbaj and Rabih Mroué

Germany | Líbano

  • Arabic with Spanish subtitles
  • 75 minutes
  • +16

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Three of the main figures in the world of Lebanese art come together in a play about loss, failure and despair to commemorate all that life is.

The word ‘borborygmus’ in English means ‘a rumbling or gurgling noise made by the movement of fluid and gas in the intestines’. It can also mean other things as well, like ‘a sound that indicates a lack or saturation of something’, ‘an unintelligible conversation’ or ‘an embarrassing situation’. Lebanese artists Lina Majdalanie, Mazen Kerbaj and Rabih Mroué add a fifth definition – ‘a play about all of the above and more, including fragments of thoughts and feelings on life, death and the digestive system’. Borborygmus reflects on disillusionment and failure, brought to the stage by three creatives who have given in to the sad reality of today’s world and who are trying to understand this. Their identities and opinions change as their lives’ and country’s taboos, fears and defeats are exposed. With both humor and irony, Majdalanie and Mroué - who normally work together in documentary theater - invite illustrator and musician Mazen Kerbaj to play what they call “a requiem for the living” with them.

Borborygmus is one of a series of plays by Rabih Mroué that will be performed at Santiago a Mil 2020, together with Looking for a Missing Employee and The Pixelated Revolution & Sand in the Eyes.

Written, directed and performed by: Lina Majdalanie, Mazen Kerbaj and Rabih Mroué | Technical director and sound and lighting designer: Thomas Köppel | Lighting: Arno Truschinski | English translation: Ziad Nawfal | Spanish translation: | Project commissioned by the HAU Hebbel am Ufer (Berlin) and the Walker Art Center (Minneapolis) | Coproduced by: Mousonturm (Frankfurt) and the Vienna Festival | Supported as part of the International Production Houses Alliance, part of the Office of the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media in Germany and by the Rosa Luxemburg Stiftung-Beirut Office | Acknowledgments: Samir Khaddaj.

“Poetically exquisite, it also leaves unanswered questions”.

—Der Standard, Austria

«[Mroué’s] understanding of what it is to be human, in all of its beauty and ugliness, burns through with an intensity that, despite - or because of - its theatricality, hits the viewer directly in the gut».


—“This isn’t a poem, it’s a turbulent testimony”. That’s how North American curator and writer André Lepecki describes Borborygmus. The reason is its in-depth testimony, with the three performers reciting texts written as a result of their own experiences as Lebanese citizens in the midst of the country’s civil war (between 1975 and 1990). In the play, they talk about both national losses - those who have died or were murdered during the conflict - and personal ones: the three of them are all around 50 years old and take to the stage to mourn what they can no longer do.

It’s unique staging includes texts, music and images that can all be interpreted in multiple ways, revealing their connections to the play’s name. “The stomach’s the organ that reveals all the incontrollable things that happen to our body (…) You can try and hide or control things or pretend you’re controlling the body, but the stomach won’t allow it”, explains Mroué in an interview with the Walker Art Center.

—The duo made up of Rabih Mroué and Lina Majdalanie is one of the most prolific groups in new Lebanese theater. Coming from a generation whose infancy and adolescence was spent in the middle of a civil war, one of the main themes running through their work is the conflict in the Middle East. Explored through stories that, as they themselves say, are somewhere between fact and fiction, it’s the audience that has to draw their own conclusions.

—The Lebanese Civil War: This conflict took place between 1975 and 1990 because of the dispute for political power between Muslims (mainly Palestinians), Jews (Israelis) and Christians, with the latter being most represented in government until then.

La forza del destino: This is an opera by Giuseppe Verdi premiered in 1862, whose opening accompanies one of the acts of Borborygmus. For years, is was considered ‘cursed’, because every time it was performed, something terrible happened at the theater where it was being put on. That’s why many companies took it out of their repertory.

—Performance: An avant-garde art form in which the play’s medium is the artist’s body and the play itself is made up of the actions this carries out, normally combined with multiple other elements such as the visual arts, music, dance and theater. It’s one of the art forms that transformed art in the middle of the twentieth century.

—Documentary theater: This concept goes back to the second half of the twentieth century, when there was an interest in bringing political and historical issues to the stage, thus blurring the lines between fiction and reality. This kind of theater not only uses documents but also collects testimonies, presenting not only the facts themselves but also a more intimate, touching and personal side to the story.

—'Mazen Kerbaj, Lina Majdalanie and Rabih Mroué talk to Allie Tepper about Borborygmus’, a video from the Walker Arts Center (in English).

Borborygmus on social media:

On Instagram, @walkerartcenter

On Twitter, @walkerartcenter

On Facebook, walkerartcenter

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