By Rabih Mroué

Germany | Líbano

  • English with simultaneous translation into Spanish
  • 90 minutes
  • +16

Advertencia +16

A thriller that combines politics, corruption and mysterious ‘disappearances’, written by one of the key figures in Arab theater.

“Last Wednesday, an employee at the Ministry of Finances called RS didn’t come home and his wife wants to know who’s holding him. RS’s disappearance isn’t just a tragedy for his family, but also shows a complete lack of respect for citizens”. The disappearance of Ra’afat Sleiman, a civil servant in Lebanon, in September 1996 is this play’s starting point, with Lebanese actor, playwright and director Rabih Mroué investigating all the different leads that emerge when a person ‘vanishes’ off the face of the earth. Obsessed by news about Lebanese people who have disappeared - cuttings of which he began to collect in a notebook a few years ago - the narrator constructs Sleiman’s case using coverage from his country’s media. From hypotheses to official reports and interpretations to speculation, the play is a journey through truth and fiction and a story with intricate law-enforcement, political and economic aspects and the always-intriguing claim of being ‘based on a true story’.

Written, directed and performed by: Rabih Mroué | Assistant director: Lina Majdalanie | Illustrations: Mazen Kerbaj | Set designer: Samar Maakaroun | Lighting and sound technical directors: Thomas Köppel and Arno Truschinski | Video interview: Mohamed Soueid and Pamela Ghoneimeh | English translation: Ziad Nawfal | Voice in Spanish: TBC | Produced by: Homeworks II – Ashkal Alwan – November 2003

“It’s a surreal 90 minutes, which constantly teases at the proposition that ‘between the truth and a lie, there is but a hair’”.

—The Guardian

It’s very appealing format widens the boundaries of theater by showing three simultaneous projections on stage: live video of Rabih Mroué’s story, images of press cuttings and documents that tell of Ra’afat Sleiman’s disappearance and live illustrations by Lebanese visual artist and musician, Mazen Kerbaj. During the play, we never know which of the situations involving Sleiman are fact (the newspaper articles that Mroué shows are in Arabic, which means the audience has to ‘trust’ in his translation) and which are fiction. This style is typical of this Lebanese playwright and questions to what extent the facts we’re given by the mass media, government and other sources of information are manipulated.

—Rabih Mroué is one of the main figures on the new Arabic theater scene. Born in Beirut in 1967, he belongs to a prolific generation of artists who began creating at the beginning of the nineties when the civil war in Lebanon ended. Greatly affected by the conflict, Mroué has focused on reflecting on Lebanese society and political power, using plays that push the boundaries between fiction and reality and memory and the construction of identity, based on an important foundation of archives (for example, photographs, videos and press cuttings).

—It gives the audience the opportunity to find out more about the idiosyncrasies of a country like Lebanon. For Mroué, these stories are more valuable than him just standing on a stage telling us about his own experiences as a Lebanese person. That’s why his plays usually take on the form of a conference. “I hate melodrama. I want to share ideas, not pain. If I told you what I’d been through in the civil war, you’d cry. You’d stop thinking”, he said in an interview with Indian newspaper The Hindu.

—Lebanon: This country is located in the Middle East and has approximately six million inhabitants. It borders Syria and Palestine, meaning that - either directly or indirectly - it has suffered the consequences of the area’s territorial and political conflicts. After the 1975-1990 civil war, this nation enjoyed several years of political and economic stability, which abruptly ended with the start of a new war in 2006 between Islamic group Hezbollah and Israel. This conflict continues today.

—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.

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.

—‘Lebanon Bans Tales of Fighters in Militias’. Article in the The New York Times on the censorship of Rabih Mroué’s plays.

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