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Saturday, March 26, 2011

Tunisian theatre pays tribute to revolution

Tunisia's once tightly-controlled theatre enjoyed a remarkable outburst of creative humour, inspired by the revolution. "Intox", a one-man show played by Atef Ben Hassine, premiered last week in Kasserine.

"This is the first time we staged a play without the supervision of the Theatrical Guidance Committee, which always acted as a censor, clipping off many parts of the script," Ben Hassine said. "The Tunisian actor, however, always outsmarted them and still managed to get the message across in a number of plays."

Describing the idea of the play, Ben Hassine said, "We started working on the play months ago. It's as if the original script foretold the blessed popular revolution. During the day-to-day rehearsals, the revolution broke out and events escalated."

"It was our duty to build on the gains of the revolution, highlight the new social phenomena and subject them to humorous satire," he said.

Ben Hassine exposed the emerging patterns of behaviour in a humorous and ironic way: people are now eager to talk about everything even if they have little understanding, where before they used to say nothing even when they understood everything.

"The play was different and quite humorous, as it highlighted some of the situations we went through, such as exaggerating the chaos as portrayed by some TV channels, as well as the people watches that guarded the neighbourhoods not knowing against what or whom," spectator Rim Mechri said.

She added that "it was a light show that eased the tension" that Tunisians have experienced lately.

"The play seeks to answer a question, 'What role can art and artists play today using the different tools and discourse that woo the minds of smart audiences?'" said Foued Litaiem, who co-wrote the script.

Meanwhile, play director Moez Gadiri promised "in the coming play to introduce bigger changes, especially in light of the existing freedoms".

According to viewer Kouther Lenglise, "the Tunisian people went through difficult times lately" and got "tired of listening to politics and political discourse".

"The play was therefore well-timed. Culture needs to assume its role in educating the people in an entertaining manner," Lenglise said.

Some viewers and critics, however, disagreed.

"When we talk about the theatre, everyone expects something different," Jamel Eddin said. "Everyone expects a revolution in the comedy theatre that we have had for years, which is full of mostly sexual innuendoes. This is exactly what we saw in tonight's play. Apparently, the revolution should have brought about a real change in theatre."

Reporter Najla Gammouae described the play as "unfocused". "It was apparently rushed during the preparation and the presentation. That is why it was not up to the value of the historic event that Tunisia witnessed," she said.

Spectator Zied Belarbi told Magharebia that "the script was poorly written and did not live up to the level of the revolution" that Tunisia had witnessed.

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