Dozens of audience members were surprised when a Syrian actor performed a nude scene during the play 'Ya Kabeer,' which was performed on Monday at the Municipal Theatre in Tunis as part of the Journées Théâtrales de Carthage (JTC) theatre festival.
The 20-minute act from the play, which is marked as for adults only, shocked many among the audience, some of whom left the theatre, while others applauded the performance.
"Some were shocked, but for me, it was just an unexpected surprise," Tunisian actor Zouhair Rayes, the head of the Municipal Theatre, who attended the show, told a Tunisian radio station Tuesday morning.
Rayes said that there was nothing sexual in the scene, and that the actor "was emotionally portraying the pains of the Middle East."
Rayes insisted, however, that the theatre was not responsible for the content of the show, confirming that it was the first act of its kind in Tunisian theatres.
"The choosing committee is responsible of the content staged during the festival," he said, adding that "nude acting is normal for Western artists, but not among Arab and Muslim audiences."
The JTC head Hatem Derbal has been quoted in the media as saying that "the actor improvised the scene and the full nudity wasn't in the original direction of the show when it was staged in Germany," adding that "the festival is not responsible for his act."
Photos and video from the show, which is directed by a German director, has been circulated on social media and news outlets, provoking hundreds of angry comments from conservative Arabs, while a few defended the show from an artistic perspective, insisting that the scene served a purpose.
The explicit act is meant to provoke the audience because it focuses on the violations of human rights globally.
The 20th edition of the JTC is taking place between 8 and 16 December, with 117 plays from 39 countries being staged, with only 11 competing for awards.
Egypt is competing in the festival with the play Al-Sa'a Al-Akhera (The Last Hour), directed by Nasser Abdel-Monim and written by Eissa Gamal Eldin. The play will be performed at the same venue on Thursday, featuring El-Ghad Theatre actors Sherif Sobhi, Samia Atef, Moataz Swify and Mahmoud El-Zaiat.
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