On 10th November, my friend urged me to go to see a play: ‘The Factory’, about the war in Syria. He was very confident I would love it, so despite usually avoiding these kind of events, I decided to give it a shot. Therefore it was with no expectations that I arrived at the Roof of Arts and Literature. To summarise ‘The Factory’ in three words: short but comprehensive.
‘If war was a factory, what would it produce? Blood, destruction, weath, power…
Director Omar Abusaada and writer Mohammad Al Attar reveal the hidden dimensions of the war in Syria through a retelling of this true story: it is 2010, the eve of Arab Spring, at the Northen border of Syria, where a new cement factory is being launched by the French interest of the company ‘Lafarge’, the biggest foreign investement in the country. The people’s revolution against Assad’s reigeme is about to launch, and will climax into the bloody conflict drastically altering Syria’s future. But the factory will continue to run, at every cost…
The two Syrian creators poetically convey the state of complete destruction that Syria has come to at the Roof of Onasis institute, with a narrative from the heart of the conflict, and actors from Damascus to enact the story of a dark buisness game taking place in the midst of a demolished country’.
The aesthetics of the play were extreemly minimal, but its emotion was conveyed through bursts of intense expression, dramatic pauses, and revelation of inner turmoil.
For Greek audiences this was extent of the play’s impact, but for me the connection ran deeper.
The whole play was in Arabic, with Greek and English hypertitles.
A large cement, demolished wall with three screens and five small desks made up the set. The main characters were an employee of Lafarge Factory, a buisnessman who grew up near Assad’s family, a doctor who had migrated to Canada a long time ago, and a journalist seeking the truth behind the cement factory.
One by one they gave their perspective of the same story, with the sound of an Oud accompanying their monologues and dialogue.
The direction was very dynamic, full of symbolism, with each character’s true story being told in turn.
The last scene finds us at the Syrian-Turkish border, in front of a towering cement wall.
The emotional weight of the performance, combined with the words spoken, had such power it brought tears to our eyes.
Ahmad’s words after crossing the border unearthed a chain of thoughts and memories, that for a long time had been buried in a dark place in my mind.
As he talked about the smell of the freshly watered ground, the sound of the leaves and the beauty of Syria, my mind ran through the streets of Douma where I spent most of my summers. I was in flourishing green gardens with white plastic tables, where we used to have picnics, and on our family days out (in a bus full of my extended family – many uncles, aunts and cousins).
Memories I had repressed for years were erupting out. His last phrase: ‘and that wall was the last thing I saw from Syria‘ struck me deeply, because I tried and found it impossible to remember what the last thing I saw there was. The reason he remembered that wall so clearly was because he knew he would never go back.
copyright: david baltzer/bildbuehne.de.