Jerun Vahle

Please, Repeat After Me

Reviewer's Rating

How could I fly to the moon without getting a visa first?

Plastic curtains, planking intro music, a Turkish song turning into a repetitive theme of a floating, yet so determined destiny. Refugees from Syria and Turkey are invited by the author and playwright Ziad Adwan to talk about their very own stories. The minimalistic setting of the play emphasizes the authenticity of its theme: When it all comes down to being who you are, without a masquerade, things get profoundly strange and uncomfortable.

At first glance, the plot seems easily understandable; a reasonable number of actors, stories to be told and enough to make a night to sophisticatedly reflect upon. However, once upon a play, an icon of al-hakawati (Arabic storyteller), well-situated for the European idea of Arabian nights, clashes with contemporary characters: A hopeless optimist who would twist every maliciousness into something good, a transgender falafel that doesn’t fit into the shape of connotations carefully made by society, a woman that lost her senses because reality was too hard to take and finally, her sister who won’t stop playing for she missed the time to step out of the safe space, called fiction. Ultimately, talking about your past without a role given to you becomes the most difficult thing to do.

In the land of secrets, reality is a thread and humor the way to escape it. Unfortunately, refuge is not over by the time one arrives at the destination. Arrival becomes a challenge of adaptation, integration, even up to self-abandonment. Adwan’s ensemble projects the paradox categories given by a passport or status of political asylum seekers onto refuges nowadays. Armaj (Attila Akinci) expresses the inner conflict of a chosen and a given identity: “I am having a hard time trying to explain how I am Syrian.” Absurdity and insecurity gives rise to the question if our society became incapable of the acquaintance of a person instead of a construct.

This play provides multiple perspectives, but even more does it display a spectrum of all kinds of stereotypes. Some may find it disturbing to receive one cliché hunting the next, desperately waiting for a deus ex machina to resolve them into political correctness. However, the fourth wall collapses and the directors interfere. But chaos increases when the characters, each and every one an expressive individual, start to take on the lead instead. They will continue their story, following the script or not. Why follow a text, when you can speak for yourself?

English is the tool to mediate stories of war as individual experiences in a deliberately scripted aftermath. In addition, it becomes a mouthpiece to make the overdrawn provocations less intimidating to the spectator. Eventually, you reserved a seat, you agreed to keep distance. Well, the actors on stage did not have the opportunity to decide on a deal as such. There is no difference between playing a refugee and being a refugee. All the world’s a stage. As Sabah (Enad Marouf) puts it: “We either survive or we are forgotten.”

Overloaded exaggeration comes in various facets, is always joyful and easy to cope with. But every time the ridiculous is absent, precautions need to be taken. Comedy is not allowed in Syria – how am I supposed to laugh about it? You’re left, literally spot-on and become the addressee eventually; “What do you want me to do, sir?” is the question every spectator is asked over and over again – you are the one to choose whether your answer turns into a demand or an actual response to interaction. With great sympathy comes great responsibility.

In the end, the full cast will do its best to please you with its finest piece. Prepare yourself to dive into the dynamics of confusion. Along with it, the provided bazarek, a sesame cookie, will taste better than thinking in boxes. Just keep your expectation low to a relieving catharsis. It will be fulfilled.