Did theatre play a part in the early days of the revolution?

Kadour: In the areas controlled by the regime, no. When the revolution began, I was working on a piece by Samuel Beckett, Ohio Impromptu and we kept going. In the areas that were liberated in 2011 and 2012, however, so many people made theatre. They created very straightforward plots about the revolution. People just wanted to talk about their stories, about the regime. I never went there, because I had to flee: my military service was approaching, I would have had to fight for the regime and I was really afraid. The revolution started in March and I left in November for Jordan, where my wife followed me after a couple of weeks.

You worked on theatre projects with refugees. How did they come about?

Kadour: I was asked by NGOs to run workshops for refugees, including children and teenagers, in the camps or outside. Sometimes I also worked of my own initiative, on both Syrian and Jordanian projects. I tried to work with both sides, because I didn′t want to victimise myself.

How was theatre received in this environment?

Syria′s president, Bashar al-Assad (photo: picture-alliance/AP)
Feeding the monster: "There are extremists in Syria today because of the regime. I′m sure of that. In the first year of the revolution, the government released hundreds of extremists from jail,″ recalls Wael Kadour

Kadour: My main goal was to help Syrians and locals live together. I believe that theatre can help people understand each other. At one point, there was real hatred between the locals and the refugees. All of them were poor and the locals didn′t want Syrians to take work from them. I used the “oppressed theatre” methodology created by Gustavo Boal, the famous Brazilian director. We used interactive theatre, games and we wrote together, based on daily life. It went really well: people just wanted to have a good time together, to feel safe and trust people. So many friendships grew out of it. It was a way to integrate.

Did that period change you as a writer?

Kadour: Of course it did. I continued to focus on social stories, but the dramatistical treatment was completely different. I gained more depth, more understanding of context. For me, it was necessary to re-evaluate what I saw as the Syrian identity, what that means exactly.

Having come to France, what do you find is the reaction of European audiences to Syrian theatre?

Kadour: Most of them focus on the political questions, not on the artistic dimension. They are afraid of Daesh, they ask me: what would happen if Assad leaves? They talk to me as a politician. It′s completely understandable and I try to answer, but I′m just a playwright. I can talk about my own experience and I can say that there are extremists in Syria because of the regime. I′m sure of that. In the first year of the revolution, the government released hundreds of extremists from jail. The regime fed the monster.

As a playwright, how do you handle these expectations?

Kadour: You have to challenge stereotypes. People always have expectations, clichés and it′s important to tell another part of the story, to be brave and ask questions instead of giving old answers. That′s what art is about: asking questions.

Interview conducted by Laura Cappelle

© Goethe-Institut 2018

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