Beirut Play Spotlights Day in Life of Ex-Army Officer After Uprising

Published November 12th, 2018 - 10:55 GMT
Terrific line up of speakers on decolonizing representation of contemporary Arab narratives  (Twitter)
Terrific line up of speakers on decolonizing representation of contemporary Arab narratives (Twitter)

Abdullah Alkafri’s new play “The Confession” follows a day in the life of the protagonist, Jalal (Jamal Saloum), an ex-army officer who has been asked to return to the military following a popular uprising.

Written by Wael Kadour, the play looks at the dynamic between Jalal and his nephew Omar (Ossama Halal), a playwright who Jalal is trying to convince to leave the unspecified Arab country in which the play is set.

The theater piece Omar is currently working on contains pro-revolutionary elements, and Jalal has been given word that his nephew must leave the country or else feel the wrath of the powers that be.

“The Confession” was performed at The Palace theater as a part of the Zoukak Sidewalks festival, which aims to spur debate around performance practices and create an opportunity for audiences and artists to get a closer look at the processes of creation and thought of various accomplished companies and artists.

 

“The Confession” is a somewhat disjointed piece of theater that meanders around fiction and nonfiction and leaves the audience guessing as to whether a character’s declaration is true or not.

There are several levels to the piece that make it more intriguing to the audience. Firstly, several philosophical conversations between various characters explore the ethical boundaries around confession. Should you confess to a heinous act you’ve never committed in order to protect yourself? Should you confess to an act you feel no remorse over?

These questions reappeared throughout the performance, both in Omar’s working-play and in the plot of “The Confession” itself.

A second prominent dimension of the piece is the way in which characters delve deeply into the parameters of confessions, against the backdrop of an increasingly oppressive political regime that is carrying out acts of violence on its own citizens.

The central argument rests on whether an accused torturer, who acted as a doctor on behalf of the state, confessed to his crimes out of remorse or self-preservation.

The overarching theme of the play the oppressive nature of autocratic regimes is expressed via the oppression of creative expression and the character’s unwillingness to rejoin the army, despite knowing he had no choice.

While there were many triumphant aspects to the performance, the English subtitles were at best distracting and at worst, ill-timed and imprecise. It is important to draw audiences from all backgrounds and nationalities, but many of the play’s subtleties felt lost on account of having to try and untangle the subtitles.

In spite of this, “The Confession” is a thought-provoking, excellently performed and nuanced piece that leaves the audience questioning their own ethical boundaries vis-a-vis truth and lies.

 

This article has been adapted from its original source.


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