Share via Email Never less than gripping … Scorched. Tristram Kenton for the Guardian Wajdi Mouawad's beautiful, sorrowful play about the legacy of anger and the cycle of revenge and war begins like a classic will-reading drama.
It takes a family. Whatever— liberals and conservatives alike can agree that families and villages are vital institutions. In order to survive, both must impose restraints on their individual members. So what happens when a loving young couple conceives a child against the wishes of their families or their village?
And what consequences are set in motion when, for the good of the family or village, the young father is banished and the infant is taken from its mother at birth and given away?
The family or village may survive for the moment. But suppose the abandoned baby— lacking a family or village to nurture him— grows up to become Pol Pot or Idi Amin or Hitler? What happens to families and villages then? Simon, her son Ariel Shafiris an amateur boxer who takes out his aggressions in the ring.
Janine Leila Buck is a mathematician drawn to "insoluble problems that will lead to other problems equally insoluble. Nawal is a woman who has been rendered speechless by the unspeakable. We see Nawal as a joyous teenage girl played by Aadya Bedi ; before we know it, she is a gaunt refugee in her 40s Jacqueline Antaramiansearching hopelessly for her child through a world gone mad; and ultimately we see her in her 60s, a thoroughly hardened woman Janis Dardaristestifying with bitter dignity at a war crimes trial.
Here we have the Wilma Theater doing what the Wilma Theater does best: Finding a first-rate script that addresses cosmic issues, and coordinating imagination, a large and talented cast I especially enjoyed the versatility of Omar Koury in six different roles, from a doctor to a janitor to a war photographer to a village elder and no-nonsense direction by Blanka Zizka to produce a performance that dazzles the intellect, if not necessarily the heart or soul.
Seven of the nine actors in the cast play multiple roles, and of course Nawal is portrayed by three different women at three different ages. Also, the script refers constantly to characters whose names— like Nawal, Wahab, Jihane, Elhame, Sawda and Nihad— are gender-neutral at least to these Western ears of mine.
I found myself wishing I had a scorecard, as at a ball game. How can we cure it? Is there an instant replay button I can hit? At the climax of the act, an SS officer kicked in the door of a Jewish home, disappeared inside, a shot rang out… and a moment later he staggered into the street, fatally wounded, crying out to his fellow storm troopers in astonishment: I half expected that well-dressed and middle-aged and, to be sure, heavily Jewish audience to storm the stage and pummel the Nazi actor themselves.
It was manipulative theater, to be sure; but what theater! When a similar moment of courageous defiance occurred in Scorched, it was greeted with absolute silence at least on opening night. That happened, no doubt, because Mouawad has taken care not to manipulate his audience or to extol retaliation.
He speaks to our reason and our intellect rather than to our emotions, which is all to the good.
Scorched is an intelligent reflection on the nature of war by one who has been deeply scarred by it. To read a response, click here.Scorched. Photograph: Tristram Kenton for the Guardian W ajdi Mouawad's beautiful, sorrowful play about the legacy of anger and the cycle of revenge and war begins like a classic will-reading drama.
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Staging Memory in Wajdi Mouawad's Incendies: Archaeological Site or Poetic Venue? This essay examines the forms of history and memory representation in Incendies, the play by Wajdi Mouawad, and its film version, directed by Denis Villeneuve.