Tunisia Live - Ikram Lakhdhar - The opening of the international festival of Hammamet gave the stage to the outstanding theatrical performance Facebook, a production of Theatre Phou that was founded in 1979 with Moncef Sayem, Fadhel Je’aybi and Raouf Hendaoui.
Famous actor Fethi Al Hadaoui announced that the choice of Facebook as the opening of the festival was symbolic, since it traces Tunisia’s socio-political events before and after the revolution.
Directed by Raja Ben Ammar, Facebook is a retrospective critic of the future of the Tunisian revolution. Ben Ammar also lent her talent as an accomplished artist to the production.
In an exclusive interview with Tunisia Live, Mehdi Ben Mabrouk, the Minister of Culture confirmed that, “The choice of presenting this excellent piece in the opening of Hammamet’s International Summer Festival comes with many significances and arguments.”
The Minister of Culture told us that the overarching message is that, “there is a general fear of betrayal to the Tunisian revolution. Maybe art and the social media networks that were behind the igniting of the revolution will follow up with implementing its goals. This is why it is important to have an artistic and aesthetic critique and vision for the post-revolutionary period.”
While there was a specific scene in the play where the leading actress recited a monologue about her own involvement with social media networks through the revolutions, the play encompassed themes that went beyond the role of Facebook.
The performance artistically documented the revolution by showing videos of protests and backlash on the streets of Tunisia. Ben Ammar also infused famous songs of revolutionary Tunisian rappers with footage of Nazi marches, the Anonymous movement and a part of the Nintendo game Mario when the famous little Italian character attempts to rescue the Princess Peach.
This active interplay of sound and video moved away from the traditional static theatrical performances and brilliantly shed light on the different debates that Tunisian society is going through today.
One of the actors was playing with a red string, tying it around her body while Ben Ammar recited quotes that referenced politics. This moment symbolized the complex, knotted-up nature of the socio-political situation.
Another strong scene of the play was when Ben Ammar discusses how animals see the world differently: “Eagles can see the world in 180% and lizards have a strange way of seeing things.”
She affirmed that similarly to animals, humans also have unique mindsets that characterize distinctive visions, and that it is only natural that we each see the world from different perspectives. “We don’t only live in one world,” shouts Ben Ammar. “If humans understood this concept, I think we could finally live in tolerance and peace with each other.”
While Facebook is a serious play featuring political and taboo themes of politics, power, salafism, the role of women and the regression of the revolution, it was presented in an entertaining and provocative manner. The performance left the public touched and challenged to question Tunisia’s future and the position of its current politicians.
The strength of Facebook is that it wasn’t merely symbolic in its critique, but was embedded with explicit references to reality.
“I felt that the piece was in part directed to the intellectual elites, and another part addressed to the public,” stated Sondes Baccar, a Tunisian poet who attended the festival. “I can see that the revolution is taking baby steps while the ground underneath is still static.”
The piece was interactive and engaging, a mixture of miming, stage acting, monologues, acrobats, music and video projections. As such, the stage was also a playground to intertwine the relations between these varied mediums.
The public was surrounded by the performance from all sides as actors moved around the entire amphitheater. Their movements were projected on screens, so the audience viewed both them and the shadow performances.
“The thematic line that Raja and Moncef Sayem followed in their theater Phou from the eighties is an art that parallels and tributes social and rightful causes, and I don’t see a deviation in this line,” concluded Ben Mabrouk, speaking about the play.