Surviving reality at D-Caf festival

May Selim, Friday 13 Apr 2012

As the final performances of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival take place, the audience is indulged in themes revolving around social and political issues

Still from the "The Speaker's Progress"

A virtual world comes to life, on stage. 

Dance and theatre performances performed within the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival provoke; they criticise and condemn the reality, politics and societies in crisis. Theatre people do not remain silent: they create a link between denouncing and creating art.

The sensation that those who are dying lose first is captured in a monodrama by Tim Etchells, performed by Forced Entertainment. 

In it, actor Jim Fletcher floats between general truths and facts to evoke a chaotic world. He moves from one speech to another, dramatically unrelated, and reveals the absurdity of this world. Yet he continues to survive, and fights against the chaos, trying to regain his composure, as if he was used to this kind of daily procedure.

Several of the performances addressed all the Arab socio-political problems and incidents of the so-called Arab spring, something that seems to be an obligatory reality.

"If I weren’t Egyptian...", a performance directed by Omar Ghayatt, deals with immigration, shattered dreams and beings destroyed every day. 

Originally a scenographer, Ghayatt depicts his subjects using a visual language. Each actor creates his own world. A young man who wants to immigrate to Italy is sitting in a cafe sipping his cup of tea. By mechanical determination, the waiter continues to offer consecutive cups of tea, mentioning that the young customer looks just like all other young men. Later, we find an elderly man undergoing painful dialysis. He remains silent throughout the whole performance creating a fixed and difficult to accept image.

"Banafsaj", a play by Issam Bou Khaled from Lebanon, brings back the theme of a society in decline, chained and seeking freedom. Khaled associates violets with a couple lost in grief and depression. It's time to bloom and look beyond the grief and decline. Banafsaj summarises the history of Lebanon, long-torn by war and sectarian strife.

However, the most striking performance of the week was "The Speaker’s Progress", part of a trilogy directed by Suleyman Al-Bassam from Kuwait. 

Concerned about freedom of expression and creativity, Al-Bassam depicts the Arab world, where artistic performances, songs and cultural manifestations are prohibited. His play speaks his own fate as a director who seeks to perform, on the stage of a forgotten theater, a Shakespearean Twelfth Night. 

Some plays touch the public, involving them in the issues raised; others rely on the audience’s reaction throughout the play, while at times the public switches roles with actors.

"We are not from outer space," a contemporary dance performance by Rita Vilhena, Mohamed Shafik and Thomas Proksch, touches the public very directly, as actors address the audience and ask them questions.

"GuruGuru" by Ant Hampton, Joji Koyama and Isambard Khroustaliov and "Ok Ok" by Ant Hampton, Gert and Jan Stam, welcomed a limited audience. 

In GuruGuru (“confusion” in Japanese), five people from the audience are given headphones and placed in front of a computer screen; they receive orders and are asked to pronounce specific words. It is up to the audience to accept or reject this exercise. The procedure, which seems so banal, invites the spectator to state his voice, to say “No” and to express himself freely.

On the other hand, Ok Ok proposes instead a dialogue between the deaf, a procedure rather exhausting but which incites reflection. 


Friday, 13th April

12pm-8pm (performed every hour)

'GuruGuru' — play by Ant Hampton (Rotozaza), Joji Koyama and Isambard Khroustaliov (UK)

'Ok Ok' — play by Ant Hampton, Gert and Jan Stam (UK)

Viennoise Space


'The Speaker’s Progress' — play by Sulayman Al-Bassam / SABAB theatre (Kuwait)

Falaki Theatre


Saturday, 14 April


'The Speaker’s Progress' — play by Sulayman Al-Bassam / SABAB theatre (Kuwait)

Falaki Theatre

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