Hanane Hajj Ali JOGGING - Theatre in progress - Sveriges Radio
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JOGGING Theatre in progress Hanane Hajj Ali
Credits / Crédits: Concept, text and performance / Concept, texte et performance: Hanane Hajj Ali Art direction and scenography / Direction artistique et scénographie: Eric Deniaud Dramaturgy / Dramaturgie: Abdullah al Kafri Light designer / Lumières: Rayyan Nihawi Coordination / Coordination: Marielise Aad Book design / Graphisme et mise en page: Danielle Kattar English translation/ Traduction anglaise: Hassan Abdulrazzak French translation / Traduction française: Praline Gay Para Subtitles / Sous-titrage: Ghina Hachicho Photographer / Photographe: Marwan Tahtah Collaboration to work in progress JOGGING Lab / Collaborations: Sound / Son: Wael Kodeih Video / Vidéo: Yacine Sebti Graphics & animation / Visuels et animation: David Habchi Co-production: Supported by: AFAC (Arab Fund for Arts and Culture) Produced in cooperation with: Heinrich Böll Stiftung - MENA Office (Beirut) Support: SHAMS Association, Collectif Kahraba, Al Mawred Al Thaqafy (Culture Resource), Moussem (BE), Zoukak / Focus Liban 2016, Artas Foundation, l’Institut Français au Liban, The British Council, Vatech, Khalil Wardé SAL. When the idea of JOGGING came to life back in 2012, Hanane Hajj Ali invited artists and practitioners of different nationalities and disciplines to take part in her artistic lab, some of them during a specific phase of the research process, and others joined in the production stages. Throughout the different phases, Hanane stimulated a collaborative work inspired by Masrah Al Hakawaty, a contemporary storytelling theatre that she had co-founded. This theatrical laboratory created an open platform for reflection, debate, and interaction that we hope to expand and deepen when meeting with the public.
JOGGING Theatre in progress A performance by Hanane Hajj Ali Hanane, a fifty-something year old Lebanese actress and citizen, exercises daily to avoid osteoporosis, obesity and depression. She takes walks in her secluded, personal space, and in the open space of Beirut. Along the way she revisits dreams, desires, hopes, disillusions, characters, and roles – mostly several Medeas with whom she shares some commonalities. The effects of this daily routine are contradictory. As a matter of fact, two hormones are stimulated in her body, dopamine and adrenaline that are alternatively destructive and constructive, amidst a city that destroys to build and builds to destroy. Alone on a bare stage, Hanane – woman, wife and mother – lifts the veil on her identity, becoming an «unveiled» performer on stage, where personas progressively parade to fit together like Russian dolls.
Characters (All characters are performed by Citizen Hanane/Mother/Actress) Hanane: Actress Yvonne: A married woman from Mount Lebanon, 42 years old Zahra: A married woman from the south, 50 years old Members of the audience: To introduce the play, introduce Yvonne and Zahra, perform the role of Zahra’s husband The underlined text represents either direct excerpts or adaptations from various sources: Euripides, Pasolini, Heiner Müller, Virginia Woolf, Reyhaneh Jabbari, Guy Béart, Shakespeare. -5-
Hanane is alone on the stage, interacting with some objects. There is a screen showing the translation of the text. Enter the audience to the sound of Hanane gurgling and repeating the letter ‘Kh’ in Arabic. Sometimes she combines the letters ‘Kh’ and “R” to create the word ‘Khara’ meaning shit. These are exercises to strengthen the uvula. These exercises help to protect the vocal cords by day and prevent snoring by night. Hanane gurgles some water and she begins her vocal exercises whilst at the same time performing some warm up physical exercises. Kh a b (disappointed) - Kh a r (babbled) - Kh a t (mix) - Kh a f (frightened) - Kh a n (betrayed) Kh b r (told) - Kh b z (baked) - Kh b es (made chaos) - Kh b t (hit) - Kh b l (made crazy) Kh t l (hid) - Kh t n (circumcised) - Kh t l (hid) - Kh t m (completed) Kh g l (felt shy) Kh d g (scratched) - Kh d r ( numbed) - Kh d a (tricked) - Kh th l (let down). After the people sit down, Hanane invites a member of the audience to stand beside her and introduce the play: Hello and welcome. Our meeting will begin or rather it has begun already so please switch off your phones… we would like to inform you that this play is an illegitimate bastard born of sin, where the thoughts of the actress -7-
have become like daughters who get pregnant out of wedlock without a care in the world, without having to have witnesses or sign a marriage certificate or obtain an official permit from state security! Whoever feels awkward or shy can leave now and return his or her ticket which is free anyway. And of course photography is not allowed as we would like to avoid a scandal! Hanane continues her exercises: Kh r b (ruined) - Kh r g (gone) - Kh r s (mute) - Kh r t (etch) - Kh r ‘a (frightened) - Kh r f (senility) - Kh r k (violated) - Kh r m (penetrated) - Kh r a (shit). Hanane (to the audience): What a happy evening! The best way to do these vocal exercises is to gather the letters Kh, R and the last letter of the Arabic alphabet to create Khara (shit)! Don’t mind me saying this whilst looking at all of you. You have faces that smell of musk. And as you are looking at me, someone who is neither shit or musk but both at the same time, I’ll let you know all about me. Those of you who know me will realise you don’t know me and those who don’t know me will curse the hour they met me! According to official documents I am Hanane Hajj Ali daughter of Ali Amin Darwish, a Lebanese true citizen for over ten years, a French citizen for over ten years, I’m married to a true Christian Maronite for over ten years. That Maronite has been a Sunni Muslim for over ten years. I belong to the Shia sect of Islam since birth. The address on my family registry was Maidan district, number 17 in Nabatiya and then it was changed to Al- Rmayl district, number 914 in Beirut. From Nabatiya to the center of Achrafiya in Beirut. I was constrained after this move because for the first and last time I decided to participate in the elections. Not the Parliamentary elections but the local elections. So I went to the election centre that I was assigned in the secondary school in Al-Rmayl. They looked me up and down and down to up, they examined their files from left to right and right to left, they gave me such a headache. They kept telling me off because they found no record for me. I was like salt that had dissolved in water.
Men are known for lying. But luckily you are before a woman. This woman is a mother with four children, none of them live in Lebanon, just like all their friends. This woman is a citizen aged… in her early 50s. She does jogging every day in Beirut to avoid stress and prevent osteoporosis. This exercise is supposed to keep her calm and help her to balance her soul and body because it encourages the production of adrenalin and dopamine. One makes you calm and the other makes you alert. During this run she dreams about her longings, about the great acting roles, her hopes and failures and she runs the same route in Beirut, a city that demolishes to build and builds only to be destroyed. OK let’s go… let’s do a little prayer and warm up like every day. Hanane gets up and begins the daily walk. During the monologue, Hanane varies her walk and run. Hanane: This is how I start my day… I wake up, I get out from under the duvet. I sit at the edge of the bed. I put on my compression stockings and swallow the pill for my Thyroid gland. I say the shahada prayer and reach for the water bottle next to me and drink as much as I can… I walk on tip toe… I go and do my ablutions then I pray… I take the sports bottom and my scarf. I wear them. I forget the pin for the scarf so I do a half turn. Then I remember the banana and the I-pod. What’s missing to be cool, man? The sweater! I put on the sweater around my waist. I get to the door. I stop… I must have forgotten something. God where are the keys? I don’t want to have to break down the door and wake up the whole building… I go back to the bedroom and examine the bed, the table next to the bed, the picture shelf above the bed. I go through the four or five wallets on the floor next to the bed, through the plastic bags containing papers and notebooks which are on the chair opposite the bed. I -9-
look under the bed, I turn over the mattress, the pillow, the duvet, the bed cover. I search the gap between my bed and my husband’s bed. God bless the idea of a single united Arab bed. God forgive you Gamal Abdel Nasser* and Abdel Halim Hafez** for the ideas you put in our heads about Arab unity. I search my pocket, the telephone table, the sofas, between the cushions, the desk, next to the medicine, between the remote controls. Three things I can never find: glasses, umbrella and keys. Maybe this is hereditary! Of course I didn’t search the fridge, the oven or in the Persil box because I am not the heroine of Dario Fo’s A Woman Alone. That woman who was so out of her mind, she hid her baby diapers in the tomato box! I am the cool hijab woman married to the genius director who is the source of my headache and love! I thought about searching the underwear drawer but stopped myself. Why? Because of what happened last Friday… I came back home late and my husband was reclining on the bed. I rattled the keys. He opened his eyes. I was searching for something in the drawer when I felt him. The keys dropped in the drawer as he took me. I was like the bee fluttering her wings and he was like the drone riding the bee! He took her so suddenly she felt nothing except bitterness and adrenalin. She didn’t know how to enjoy it or to relax or to feel happy. He went back to sleep and she stayed awake until the cock crowed. And after that Scheherazade awake to do jogging but couldn’t find her keys!!! I shut the door and go… And so starts my special relationship with nature in Beirut… It’s enough that I hear the cooing of doves that gather on the orphan big tree behind Zico House which * Gamal Abdel Nasser, a prominent Arab leader, president of Egypt from 1956 until his death in 1970. Nasser has been described as the first leader of an Arab nation who challenged what was perceived as the western dominance of the Middle East. Nasser remains a highly revered figure in both Egypt and the Arab world. ** Abdel Halim Hafez who died in 1977 is among the most popular Egyptian and Arabic singers. He has been in close relation with the Nasser regime. He sang directly to president Gamal Abdel Nasser in several occasions.
instead of being green, is jet black from the pollution. Her leaves ooze with dirty oil, like the oil priests use in service, like our great priest, former president Al-Hariri* and his Future channel which omits programs and carbon dioxide 24/7. I begin to travel the universe and flutter into another world. I feel ecstatic to hear sound of doves and the few birds on the tree. I try to comprehend the alphabet of clarity that come from the sounds they make. I imagine I am one of them, one of their chorus. And I flutter far away to places not of this world and I remember the quranic verses: “the birds with wings spread Each of them has known his means of prayer and exalting Him… but you do not understand their way of exalting. Indeed, He is ever Forbearing and Forgiving”. As I was lost in spirituality, submerged in metaphysics and contemplating the universe, a piece of pigeon shit fell into my eye! Then a good question came to me: Is it right for pigeon to be exulting God whilst doing its business? A question that on the surface seems stupid but is actually profound once you look at it deeply. It’s a question that I couldn’t answer in Arabic. So I asked myself in other languages: Could a creature praise God while shitting? Est-ce qu’on peut prier en déféquant (c-à-d en faisant caca)? But we ca not say ‘caca’ because philosophically it won’t do. The thing is, I pondered this question for a good while. Then I had the answer. I remembered my grandmother’s saying: everything that comes from the sky is good even if it is birds’ shit. To the sound of the bubbles of certainty and the beats of * Rafic Hariri, born 1 November 1944 in Saida and murdered 14 February 2005 in Beirut, is a businessman and Lebanese politician. He made his fortune in Saudi Arabia before heading five governments in Lebanon between 1992 and 2004, particularly from 1992 to 1998 and from 2000 to 2004. -11-
faith, I feel a pleasurable anaesthesia that begins from my toes and goes up all the way to my eyelashes which begin to feel like pins and needles and freeze my gaze between them so that I am looking between heaven and earth. I’m puzzled and astonished by this moment where the night hums and the morning breathes, the moment when darkness retreats by light and across the face of darkness, spots of light emerge that become bigger until they cover everything. Once I decided to extend this moment as far as it goes, the moment between the disappearance of darkness and the beginning of light so I took with me two thread reels, white and black and I spread the threads before me as I walked so that I can feel the miracle of the one thousand of a second that distinguishes the black thread from the white… It’s a scandal!!! Scandal, I swear to God, definitely a scandal. From the bottom of the light, a gurgling and shit and talking to myself and running and pigeons and shit and dreams! Scandal, definitely a scandal! It’s unbelievable how many tense dreams I have whilst walking that I don’t even have whilst I’m asleep!! These dreams come to me whilst I run like a scene from a movie. God when I remember what I dream about I die of shame! Sometimes I stand in the middle of the road and ask myself: could it be right? How could such dreams enter the head of an upstanding lady like yourself, who is faithful and virtuous, a lady that loves her husband so dearly. Then I curse myself. I spent the whole night dreaming of a man who can’t be seen or mentioned. We tried different positions, on my stomach, my back, my shoulder, my ass, backward, forward. Six hours with no food or drink. Many times I tried to analyse myself to understand what’s going on. Maybe this has something to do with hereditary. OK if we accepted the idea of an inner mind, and a greedy spirit for mankind that leads to such erotic dreams, and as long as God
punishes these deeds, then at least let God make me dream of a man worth going to hell for. What a wasted dream… !! And with whom, with Fouad Al-Seniora*? Can it be? What a let down. I swear my life is spent between mania and depression, fire and ash, adrenalin and dopamine. The one gets me up, the other down. It’s too much! Never mind. God curses only to redeem. Being an actress, I can transcend my frustration through other dreams, dreams of the great acting roles, the Greek roles. Phaedra, Andromeda, Cassandra, Antigone… Hercules, Odepus, Maciste... Medea… Yes Medea, this is a great character! I’ve been obsessed for a long time with Medea… Medea the mythical heroine, you know her: Hanane tells the story of Medea as a parody. She was a barbarian, the granddaughter of the sun God Helios, daughter of Aeëtes, she had magical powers… she was the ultimate woman!! She had big cow eyes like those of the Indian actress Aishwarya Rai but black… Her lips, full of goodness. Her cheeks were like thrones for birds to perch on. She is a great terrain, as if carved out of Kilimanjaro and its neighbour the valley of skulls. A woman with raging red hormones. She started jogging along the beach with greater passion than me. She wears a purple scarf that drags behind her some nine meters. And then she sees a beam of light, shining out of the water. God have mercy! She saw Jason coming up from the horizon with his seductive six pack. She sees him at the head of the ship with his fellow Argonauts and she adores him to death! And he has not come for nothing, he has crossed the seven seas to get the golden fleece which guarantees the wearer permanent power. It is guarded with a magic spell in the palace of the king where Medea, the barbarian lives. She does everything so that Jason could have her. She helps him defeat the blue devils, seduce the dragon, sleep with the serpent that * Fouad Al-Seniora was in charge of the Ministry of Finance under Al-Hariri. He was also prime minister after Al-Hariri’s mandate. -13-
protects the fleece. Finally she got the fleece and Jason. She took hold of him and he took hold of the fleece. And with her other arm she took her young brother and all together they headed to Argos. Of course matters didn’t end there and the king chased after her with his army. To distract her father she picked up a cleaver and in the blink of an eye, she smashed it down over her brother’s head then dismembered his body and scattered his body parts. This forced the king to stop every now and then to collect a part of his son’s body. First his head and the last thing his arse. She not only escaped but had a three month honeymoon. When they reached Argos, Jason went to his uncle, the king, who had seized power and said (and this is according to Pasolini’s Medea): Here is the golden fleece and as we agreed give me back my royal power. His uncle, who was versed in the art of politics, replied: “It’s true I made that promise. I haven’t forgotten. But you should know, kings are not obliged to stay true to their word”. Then Jason with all his pride replied. “Keep the golden fleece but know this, there is no glory that lasts forever”. If Euripides was alive during Pasolini’s time, he would have killed him for putting this impetuous reply (that’s my theory). But Medea is listening to all this so she prepares a poison concoction and convinces Jason’s cousins, the daughters of the king, to give it to their father so it could not only protect him from a stroke but also restore his youth. So the daughters give the father the concoction and as soon as he takes a sip, he then lets out the gasp of death. Meanwhile Medea and Jason pack their bags and flee to Corinth. There Jason was beloved by all the people. Him and the king Creon became so close they were like two arse cheeks bound together in a single underpants. Then one day Creon tells Jason, I want us to become family, I want you to marry my daughter Créuse. Jason, being a vicious womaniser, liked the idea. One moonless night, he tells Medea that he is going to marry the daughter of the king to protect their children. Medea, fast as a fleeting glance, without screaming or weeping or asking for divorce, she takes
her prettiest dress and immerses it in a black poison. She puts the dress in an ebony box and before she sends it as a present to the would be bride, she tells Jason: “I’ll turn the bride into a torch for the wedding, I will fill up the pores of her soft skin with the gold of Colchis and on her white skin I will write my play”. The poor thing, as soon as she wore the dress, she was aflame. Her father tried to save her but it was as if he poured petrol on the fire. Now the whole palace was lit. Jason was plucking nutmeg to sweeten his beloved’s mouth when all of a sudden he heard a mighty scream. He looked towards the palace and saw a mountain of flame. Immediately he understood what happened and he ran to Medea, screaming like a slaughtered bird: Meeedeee. With utter calmness, to crown her deeds, Medea kills her two children (this is according to Euripides). She then ties bits of their corpuses in the tail of her dress, climbs her strange chariot and heads towards the sun. She does this without letting Jason set his eyes or senses on the bodies of his dead children. Ah! Medea! A great role. There is no actress that doesn’t dream of it. But Medea not only attracts me but also repels me. She can drive you crazy. A mother could not kill her children like that no matter what Euripides and the Gods who made him say! When my son had cancer aged seven, I was crippled with fear. Because I loved him so much I wished he would die so he would not suffer! From that time, Medea invaded me and I felt like I was a piece in the giant puzzle of her character. I searched for the other pieces in the stories of women I knew. I started to think how we can deal with such a myth. Who is Medea today in a torn city like Beirut. If the age of tragedy as a type of theatre is gone, why do I smell catastrophe every time I run on the streets of Beirut and I remember Shakespeare’s saying: -15-
There is something rotten in the state of Denmark. Which we can translate literally to: there is something rotten in the Lebanese heaven! While I was contemplating this question the first part of Medea lands like a plate of poison. Hanane asks a member of the audience to introduce Yvonne. A member of the audience: Yvonne is a true Lebanese citizen living in a town in Mount Lebanon. She decided on Thursday 19 November 2009 to end the lives of her three daughters. Nora who is 13, Elisa who is 10 and Mariam who is 7. She then took her own life. Yvonne who grew up in a civilised town, and had a good education, had an ideal love relationship with her husband, Elie, who lived in the Gulf and was responsible for thoroughbred horses belonging to a big Sheik. Yvonne that night prepared a fruit salad with honey and whipping cream doused with a significant quantity of rat poison. She gave the salad to the girls. They fell into a deep sleep. She made a tape for her husband. She ate from the same salad and slept beside her daughters. The neighbours later found the four bodies. The tape Yvonne recorded will in few hours disappear. Meanwhile Hanane puts on a raincoat and embodies a new character to perform the next scene: Dearest, I feel certain I am going mad again. I feel we can’t go through another of those terrible times. And I shan’t recover this time. I begin to hear voices, and I can’t concentrate. So I am doing what seems the best thing to do. You have given me the greatest possible
happiness. You have been in every way all that anyone could be. I don’t think two people could have been happier till this terrible disease came. I can’t fight any longer. I know that I am spoiling your life, that without me you could work. And you will I know. You see I can’t even say this properly. What I want to say is I owe all the happiness of my life to you. You have been entirely patient with me and incredibly good. I want to say that - everybody knows it: If anybody could have saved me it would have been you. Everything has gone from me but the certainty of your goodness. I can’t go on spoiling your life any longer. I don’t think two people could have been happier than we have been. Hanane: the truth is: that is not the note Yvonne recorded for her husband but the note the British writer Virginia Woolf left for her husband before she committed suicide. She suffered from depression after the second world war when she lost her house in London. Because the public did not like the last two books she had published, she got up that morning, wrote her letter quickly, wore her long coat, filled her pockets with stones and entered the river near her home and didn’t exit. What Woolf said in that letter is what many people imagined Yvonne had said in hers. They said certainly something like that can’t happen in our town. It must be the illness. Hanane grabs hold of a tin of white cream and rubs it over her face as she performs the next scene: There is a great actress called Valérie Dréville who played Medea in a version by Heiner Müller and she ended up covering her face with cream and was then naked as the day God made her from top to bottom. The cream gave me ideas because it’s at the heart of the story (the fruit salad with whipping cream) but playwright Abdullah told me that on stage the cream on the face would be interpreted in a sexual manner. Ayi. Why not? So here, now with me in front of you, submit to the power of suggestion and let your imagination run free. I will try to imagine what was on that tape. -17-
Hanane wears a wig and performs the part of Yvonne. She puts on kuhel, and looks at the small mirror in her hand as if she was looking at the camera. Hanane (performing Yvonne): How are you darling? How is the sheik, our great provider? Let him know how much I appreciate his generosity. Congrats on training the latest thoroughbred. You’re a regular Alexander, I swear. You’re the only one that knew how to break her with your charms. She joined you to the ‘house of obedience’ as our Muslim brothers put it. What happened between you was halal and haram (right and wrong), you broke bread and slept with the ‘virgins’ in heaven and drank from the rivers of alcohol promised to the Muslims. They have heaven on earth. You’re the horse master. No horse can be broken without you. You’re all over the Gulf. No one knows how to tame the wild horses except you. And each horse you break is worth its weight in gold. And we are drowning in gold. We are proud of you! Silence. Yvonne: “I’m proud of you” that’s what you told me on the phone yesterday… You were surprised how I talked to you without admonishment or anger or tears as I usually do… I prayed to God to give you peace of mind… get you away from me and make you happy… you will be proud of us… certainly… Its enough for you to put this tape in, click the button, to see us with your own eyes, and to see your image reflected in our eyes. The day of judgment is here, Jason. And Medea will take back what she lent you. I left behind me a so called country. And I’ll leave behind us a so called exile. And so that exile would not become a country,
I’ll cut what joins us to her with these two hands. While singing، Yvonne takes out a piece of paper and cuts out the shape of the three girls. Yvonne: Ma petite est comme l’eau, elle est comme l’eau vive Elle court comme un ruisseau, que les enfants poursuivent Courez, courez, vite si vous le pouvez Jamais, jamais, vous ne la rattraperez [My little girl is like water She’s like the running water She runs like a stream That children follow Run, run, Quick as you can Never, never You’ll never catch up to her] Yvonne: I wrote for you the play of a lifetime. I directed it and acted in it along with your daughters. I got them to eat and drink in your honour. They live and die by my honour. A unique play that doesn’t begin or end. The actors can never discard the role. They stay in character forever. And you were inside the picture and outside it. You were our star and our audience. I gift you the last of my words, kisses and greetings before I join them and we will sit together and watch you from heaven. We will watch you perform the role of Jason, the shocked father. I know just how much you will embrace that role and how it will suit you... That’s why I congratulate you with all my heart and say bravo. -19-
She blows a kiss towards the camera, then takes a lighter to burn the piece of paper. Hanane takes off the wig. Hanane: Why did Yvonne do this? What makes a woman that has all the means of happiness end everything in a second, a woman who pretends she is happy but everything around her is driving her to madness and to drowning in the sea of murder? We have a lot of curiosity to know the details of the tape she made. This tape that was given to the court as evidence of what Yvonne had done, disappeared in record time and no one could examine it, well not in a legal way at any rate! This tape that you could say was buried along with her, we know a little of its content which was leaked after the bodies were found. Yvonne says: “I’m gone and I have taken my daughters with me so they wouldn’t suffer the torment that I endured and so I can be certain they would be safe” Can you imagine how I felt when I read that sentence! Not only was this the same sentence I said when my son was enduring his cancer pain, but because there is something so strong in what she said and did that makes you think everything that was said about Yvonne was superficial. It makes us think: If Yvonne merely wanted us to know that it was she who killed her daughters and no one else and that she committed suicide afterwards then she could have left a small piece of paper if she had the strength to hold a pen that is. Instead, without any one from her family or her husband’s family or her neighbours knowing, she planned her crime with utter coolness, preparing the ingredients of the fruit salad that killed her children: apples, cherries, mango, pineapple… and not forgetting the lychee which is hard to find. The whip cream wasn’t from a can. No! This was fresh cream mixed with icing sugar. She had a cake prepared which she put on dantele-like paper because that’s nicer and better. And she prepared the camera and the tape and didn’t forget to charge the
camera battery. She picked the right angle. She got her girls new pyjamas, pink and sky blue. One had a bear print, another had a ladybird print and another had the smurfs. She herself looked great… she filmed her daughters before they died and then after and she spoke to camera for the duration of the tape. It’s as if Yvonne wanted to bear witness to something and then the tape disappeared. It’s as if she wanted to “reveal something hidden” that no one other than her knew. She wanted perhaps to “expose” something whose details no one knew beside her. Something she couldn’t change during her life… There are things that happen in this country, dangerous things, that are talked about briefly then they disappear as if they never happened. Small and big matters, in relation to money, honour, the honour of the government, the sect, the family, and politics, theft, corruption… a thousand and one reasons. Really dangerous subjects (Refaat Suleiman*, the child who before she died was drugged every day and raped by the resident priest of the school or her father, no one knows for sure! Rana Klaylat, and the scandal of the Mediterranean bank..). Cases that are fixed then erased and we in the end become false witnesses. We are made - or rather we agree to be made - to face reality. i.e. fait accompli. In the end we say “it’s our fate to live in this country, whatever we do nothing will change”. We are still living in the age of myths and fatalism. There are plenty of catastrophes that we are living through. Based on all that is happening we can paraphrase Shakespeare and his Danish prince: There is something tragic in the state of Denmark. To translate that to our situation: There is something tragic in our indignant republic! Hanane takes out a transparent red cloth which is few meters long from the bag she has with her. She puts the cloth around her head and * Refaat Suleiman, an employee of the Ministry of Finance, accused in 1996 of rigging a large amount of fiscal stamps. He was killed by those involved in the case and his body was put in a barrel of acid. -21-
hands so that she can perform a scene from Médée Matériau. Hanane (in the role of Medea): You evil, painful, fornicator, traitor, fate… the big monster marching towards me, lick me, smell me, gather me, devour me, I’m all yours. I’m yours tonight, I’m your wife, adversary, concubine, I’m your wrong, your right… all the pours of my body will open to you. A holy carpet that you spread beneath you like a whore. Take me, pierce me, needle me, grab me, gather me, break me. Blow… burn… shackle… breach… squirt… I will dissolve, pickle, ferment. I will be tormented to give birth as necessary… For you I spent that night. Finally I will be myself, finally I will be Medea, finally I will live. Hanane (switching to the role of Zahra, looking up): God, I’m tired of living… I don’t mean to complain but I want someone to feel pity and compassion towards me… help me God… I have not reached you easily… I’m not complaining, I just want you to pity me. Hanane (Looking at the audience): Don’t think it strange. Yes Zahra has an open direct line with Him. God is kind and he tolerates her. Another being would have blasphemed by now!!! Zahra: Thirty years of my life were spent in wars… a long path planted with disappointment: I was born the year of the earthquake… I grew up quickly. I started menstruating in 1967 when the West bank was occupied. I was 11 years old. A bomb fell beside me and I had my period. They married me off after Nasser died in 1970. They took me like a pile of old clothes and deposited me with a strange man without a wedding or anything. I stayed for four months in the house like a widow because we were mourning the dearly departed leader… I remember the birthdays of my children because they are all tied to wars. Only the last
son I had was born on a sunny, quiet day. A clear day suited for shelling according to our Russian brothers! When Nasser died many people committed suicide by jumping onto Pigeon’s Rock in Beirut, mainly men. The women caught up after the death of Halim Hafiz. Women would jump out of their windows and land on the bastard rock directly! At that time I couldn’t even bear to look at a photo of Che Guevara because of my overflowing feelings… my revolutionary feelings! I would cry when I heard the Beatles. Even now when I hear ‘imagine’ my whole body would shake… of course I’d hear it by accident… the words of Mao Zedong were like gospel and Lenin was almost a prophet, forgive me God! My life and the life of the youth were sacrificed by our leaders and each leader proved to be shitier than the one before. Zahra (Looks up): I beg your forgiveness, God! It’s been a long time since I swore! A dirty word to describe the dirt! Otherwise why did you invent dirty words? It’s been a long time since I wore a bikini or tasted alcohol (though I still get drunk on the smell of aniseed because I love it so much). From the days of the Automatic and Horse Show cafes (frequented by the youth and intellectuals) until now… not even a drop. I would stop being observant every now and then. Sometimes I pray, sometimes I don’t. But I swear ever since the Iranian revolution was victorious I started walking the straight path! We started to gather on the Rawda cafe overlooking the beach to reassess everything… after all this loss, we have no one but you… ever since then I started reading the Quran with a great deal of contemplation… I spent my time reading and smoking i.e. only touching what was allowed… There was one who had the magic of Guevara and made us forget coffee and cigarettes when we saw him or heard him and that was Sayed Moussa el Sadr*. God bring him back from exile and show us your mercy, God. * Moussa el Sadr was an Iranian-Lebanese thinker and Shia religious leader from a long line of distinguished clerics tracing their ancestry back to Jabal Amel. He disappeared in Libya on 31 August 1978. -23-
Hanane : That wasn’t Hanane that you heard… it’s not the story of Hanane… it’s the story of Zahra. Hanane goes to a member of the audience and asks him to introduce the story of Zahra. A member of the audience: Zahra, you’re 15 years old They married you off as usual You had children as usual You served your husband’s family as usual. But what was unusual is that you refused the usual. You refused common notions of halal and haram. You went to the fountain head and drank from it. Hanane performs the role of Zahra but she inhabits her gradually. Zahra, you got divorced, you faced everyone, the family and your blood. You loved the cause, you loved freedom, you loved Muhammad, the prophet and your lover who is named after the prophet. I swear on the prophet and who made the prophet a prophet that love makes a woman sparkle. Who would have thought this fragile girl would grow into a formidable woman. Her windows open to the world, her soul flying high… your burning sun sheltering in his shadow… your love and your mirror: a mirror inside a mirror inside a mirror. Love, struggle, art and The Left, a prestigious Palestinian, nationalistic, socialist, resistance fighter… resisting everything except love… how you loved him and how he loved you… the rope of love is long… it starts in the pit and reaches all the way up to God or vice versa.
Meanwhile Hanane begins to wear the clothes of the woman from Dahia (Shia Muslim women). Black gloves and hijab. Zahra: I was pregnant with my daughter and the cause… We fought together. The Israelis detained you... They locked you up in Ansar prison. During Eid, we went to the hill facing the prison to wish you a happy Eid. The Israelis pointed their guns at us. They killed three women and I was arrested and locked up in the Rejie factory which they converted into a women’s prisons. I gave birth inside the prison. I cut the umbilical cord using a stone and held onto the cord of faith… I went in the prison as one and became two and when I left I was three. Me, our daughter and God. Zahra puts the scarf on the shoulders of a member of the audience and addresses him as if he is Muhammad. We have no one but Him. God bless his prophet. There is no God but God. We worship only Him even if that makes the infidels hate us… God bless Muhammad, and his family, and his friends, and those who loved him, and his wives and his supporters… Suddenly Zahra stops and looks ahead with puzzlement. What’s wrong Muhammad? Why are you looking at me strangely? Why are you sour? Why your body is tense? Your kiss is awkward? Your saliva pinches? Your odour repulsive? Am I undesired? Three weeks have passed Jason and you did not come near me! Not with your voice or hands or eyes! Look me in the eye… Look at me… wow… this is not you, you are not Muhammad… you are a cheater and in love… Love can reveal what’s inside you. Zahra: I disowned my family for your sake. The husband, read by a member of the audience: I paid you a great deal, I gave you two precious children. -25-
Zahra: I discarded my mother and father to follow you. Husband: When you run barefoot you drive me crazy. I wish you’d calm down. Zahra: What’s the occasion, so you’d marry a whore? Husband: Begging the forgiveness of God! Zahra: Begging the forgiveness of God? Now you remember God. God was dead when I met you. (In broken French) Dieu était bien mort [God is dead] do you remember? And we paid God no heed in every demonstration; but when I saw you in your formidable beard after the battle of Khalda, after the Israelis invaded in 1982. I screamed: O God, how beautiful you are! I have been invaded by faith. The bigger your beard got, the bigger God became. I loved you to death. I worshiped the ground you walked on… I started to wear the headscarf then the hijab then the niqab. I memorised the Quran so you would believe in me… your one and only love… in the end you bowed between her legs… what did you tell me is the punishment of the apostate, infidel? Husband: Your heart is made of stone. Zahra: It beats only for you. Husband: Your heart is a black stone. Zahra: My heart is a temple for your worship. Husband: Enough of your evil, woman. Zahra: The most evil thing about me is that I can’t let you go. Husband: Even if you were the whole world, I’d still let you go. Zahra: You are this world and the hereafter. Zahra retrieves the scarf and covers her face with it like a primitive mask and begins reciting the following curse:
Zahra: Mohamed went on land, he found a tough woman. Not wearing a hijab, bearing her teeth, howling like a wolf, barking like a dog, neighing like a horse in the dead of night, she’s a destroyer of palaces, a furnisher of graves. Turns light to darkness. He told her: curse you woman, you frightened my camel, made my turban fall, turned my face ashen. God help me against you. She told him: Prophet of God, take from me the covenant of God. I am the stubborn woman, I take any baby out of his bed, the bull by his yoke. I can make the youth an old man and the old man young again. I pierce your mother and father’s eyes and the envy they sparkle with, the eye of the guest with the edge of a sword, the eye of a neighbour with the edge of fire. I swear I’ll transport you to a place the rooster will not crow, where the plant will not grow, a place that will not be visited by Muhammad, God bless him. And with the reading of the curse, her whole body shakes, bends and breaks and she is left a heap on the floor, screaming a silent scream and looks up to the sky. God I am in your sight, look at me… I am defeated… oppression is backbreaking… my knees are weak. I can not stand up. I was infested with lice on a moonless night… Please God, don’t let Muhammad make me lose my faith. Don’t let him fleece me after the whole world has fleeced me. Everything that I have built has come tumbling down over my head and the head of my children. I can’t doubt your existence and you will prove to me that you exist. I’m wronged and you only you can make me right… I left the world and all that’s in it and took you as my world and my hereafter… I vowed that my children are for you to do with as you please. I fed them with the milk of your revelation, they walked along your path and made great gains. O God, be pleased with me and let me be the mother of a martyr. O God let me and my children have a house in your paradise… Is the pharaoh’s wife -27-
better than me?… The God that was able to part the sea so that the pharaoh and his soldiers drowned, surely such a God could take me to his heart. God with your stick split the heart of that dog! Let me have justice from him. I accept your verdict… Let him for as long as he roams see how high we are and how low he is. That low life that wasn’t satisfied with the gift God gave him. What did you say is the punishment of the apostate? The punishment of he who killed a soul for no good reason? The one who took everything and for whom nothing was sacred. God, if an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth then I want you to get me justice from that betrayer, infidel, low-life, cheap, liar, con artist. He who preaches about the greater jihad and chastity whilst he crawled after every petty desire he had… His evil will perish but your justice is eternal… O most benevolent God… God is more mighty than any evil… God is great. There is no God but God. God is great. God is great. (Gradually the prayer turns to a litany in the voice of Hanane as if we are in the pilgrimage to Mecca, Hanane spins around) God is great. His praise is plentiful. There is no God but God. He fulfils his promise. He makes his worshipers victorious. He defeats parties. Him alone we worship, no one else. We are true to him even if we are hated by the infidels. God save Muhammad and his family, and his friends, and his wives and those who love him. God forgive me and forgive my parents who raised me. There is no God but God. After a while Hanane stops, takes a deep breath and addresses the public. Hanane: And that’s what happened. Two of Zahra’s children died in the 2006 war against Israel, as they fought against the “enemy” in the south. Zahra, like Medea, sacrificed her two children. But Zahra has no magic chariot and her grandfather is not the god of the sun. So far Zahra’s story is incomplete because in 2013 her third son died while fighting in the north of Syria. Hanane grabs a letter and reads it embodying the role of Zahra one last time:
Hello mum, what I am about to say I hesitated before I said it but you have raised me to tell the truth. That’s what made me pay with my life for my stance. I’ve lived for 19 years and today I want to tell you that the time has come for me to escape out of this world. Tonight I will be dead. They will carry me across the border and bring back my body for you to identify. They will tell you I was martyred but you will know that I was killed. And they will know that you know. No one will know the identity of the killer except you because no one has their strength and influence. You will find it tough but you will raise your hands to the sky and say: “what makes me endure this pain is that you can see this injustice”. You will remember the martyrdom of Hussein, the slain son of the Ali ibn Abi Talib*, God bless his soul and you will endure. I learnt from you that we are passing through this world. It’s a corridor and not a base as you used to say to my dad when he was obliged to sell his fruit juice store in the Martyrs Square after the end of the war. I learnt that we have to fight injustice and not be afraid of it. Blessed is he who dies oppressed and not oppressor. They say I was a coward and didn’t kill! I - who couldn’t harm a fly - was expected to kill and achieve victories. They wanted me to kill whoever stood in my way even women and children. Why? Begging the forgiveness of God. I didn’t agree mum and that’s how I turned in a night and a day into a coward and a traitor. I was optimistic that when the leadership heard my side of the story, they would punish those who detained me. There were no vandals or ISIS. Maybe elsewhere were such people but all I saw were hungry people who were being barrel bombed. The officer didn’t even hear what I had to say. He hit me with his rifle and hurled insults at me. He didn’t hit me to cause physical pain… he hit me to humiliate and break my spirit. That’s when I discovered that dignity is forbidden for the likes of us. * Ali ibn Abi Talib is the cousin of prophet Muhammad as well as his son in law. -29-
Mother, don’t cry no matter what you hear. Don’t believe that your son is a traitor, coward and an agent. If this is how one attains martyrdom then I don’t want it. I don’t want to be a martyr. Let me bear witness that they are liars. There is one thing left that my heart desires. I would have liked you to do something for me, something only you could have done. This is what I wanted: I didn’t want to rot in the earth. Neither did I want my eyes or heart to be buried under the dirt. I didn’t want anything to unite me to this country… I reject it… I didn’t want to be buried, mum… I wanted to donate my heart, my kidneys, my eyes, my bones and every part of me to someone that needs it… for you to have given him my parts and not tell him who it came from… I didn’t want anyone to know my name. I didn’t want a grave where people can come and cry. I didn’t want them to make themselves into heroes on the back of me. May God never forgive you if you wear black, may he never forgive you if you let them call you ‘the mother of the martyr’. On the Day of Judgment, we will be doing the judging and they will stand accused. Let’s wait for the will of God… God is great. I wish I could hug you until I die. And kiss your noble hand that always closed my eyes before I slept. Mum... I love you. Silence. Hanane resumes running for a while. Lights begin fading out gradually until stage black out. Hanane continues to jog in complete darkness. The audience continues to hear the sound of her steps haunting the stage. Silence.
JOGGING Théâtre en chantier Hanane Hajj Ali
JOGGING Théâtre en chantier Une performance de Hanane Hajj Ali Hanane, actrice et citoyenne libanaise dans la cinquantaine, fait quotidiennement de l’exercice pour prévenir l’ostéoporose, l’obésité et la dépression. Elle se promène dans son espace personnel, intime, autant que dans les espaces ouverts de Beyrouth. En chemin, elle revisite ses rêves, ses désirs, ses espoirs, ses désillusions, ses personnages, et ses rôles – principalement des Médées avec lesquelles elle partage une part de son être. Les effets de cette routine quotidienne sont contradictoires. En effet, deux hormones sont libérées dans son corps pendant l’exercice, la dopamine et l’adrénaline, qui sont à tour de rôle destructives puis constructives, à l’image de cette ville qui détruit pour reconstruire, et construit pour détruire. Seule sur une scène vide, Hanane – femme, épouse et mère – lève le voile sur son identité, devenant une actrice « dévoilée » le temps de cette représentation où les personnages défilent progressivement pour s’emboîter comme des poupées russes.
Personnages (Tous les personnages sont joués par Hanane, la citoyenne, la mère, la comédienne) Hanane: comédienne Yvonne: femme mariée, du Mont-Liban, 42 ans Zahra: femme mariée, du Liban Sud, 50 ans Membres du public: présentent la pièce et les personnages: Yvonne, Zahra ainsi que le mari de Zahra. Les textes soulignés sont des extraits d’œuvres diverses: Euripide, Pasolini, Heiner Müller, Virginia Woolf, Reyhaneh Jabbari, Guy Béart, Shakespeare. -37-
Hanane est seule sur une scène nue, elle manipule quelques éléments scénographiques. Le surtitrage est projeté sur un écran au fond de la scène. L’entrée du public se fait au son des gargarismes de Hanane qui servent à échauffer ses cordes vocales. Kh a b (déçu) - Kh a r (gazouille) - Kh a t (coudre) - Kh a f (apeuré) - Kh a n (trahis) Kh b r (nouvelle) - Kh b z (cuire le pain) - Kh b es (mélange) - Kh b t (frappe) - Kh b l (fou) Kh t l (caché) - Kh t n (circoncis) - Kh t m (scellé) Kh j l (intimidé) Kh d g (rayé) - Kh d r (drogué) - Kh d a (dupé) - Kh th l (abandonné). Quand le public est installe, Hanane sort de sa poche une feuille de papier et de mande a une spectatrice ou un spectateur de lire le texte qui y est imprimé, le prologue de la pièce: Bonsoir, vous êtes les bienvenus. Le spectacle va commencer... Ou plutôt il a commencé. Nous vous prions de bien vouloir éteindre vos téléphones portables… Nous vous informons que cette pièce de théâtre n’est pas légale. C’est une pièce illégitime; un enfant naturel conçu dans la tête de la comédienne, sans autorisation d’aucune instance officielle, en charge de la censure, -39-
sans document officiel, sans contrat et sans acte de naissance. Si la non conformité aux lois illégales vous met mal à l’aise, si vous ressentez une gêne ou une appréhension concernant le statut de cette pièce, vous pouvez quitter en toute liberté la salle et même vous faire rembourser le billet qui de toute faҫon vous a été offert à l’entrée. Il est bien entendu interdit de prendre des photos ou de filmer le spectacle car nous préfèrerions éviter le scandale. Hanane reprend ses exercices: Kh r b (détruit) - Kh r j (sorti) - Kh r s (muet) - Kh r t (fraisé) - Kh r ‘a (apeuré) - Kh r f (sénile) - Kh r k (violé) - Kh r m (pénétrer) - Kh r a (merde). Hanane (s’adressant au public): Quelle belle soirée! L’idéal pour faire ces exercices vocaux est d’acoller les lettres Kh, R et la dernière lettre de l’alphabet arabe pour obtenir Khara. Je dois faire tous les jours quelques exercices de diction, avec des sons bien précis, et ma gargariser afin de muscler mon appareil phonatoire et d’améliorer mes capacités respiratoires. « Khara » signifie « Merde » sauf le respect que je vous dois, et pour rafraîchir l’atmosphère permettez-moi de vous souhaiter une soirée parfumée au musc. Je suis une combinaison savante des deux, mais ni tout à fait l’une ni vraiment l’autre, je vais donc commencer par me présenter. Ceux qui me connaissent apprendront qu’ils ignorent qui je suis, et ceux qui me découvriront maudiront l’heure où ils m’ont connue. Selon les documents officiels, je m’appelle Hanane Hajj Ali, fille de Ali Amin Darwich, citoyenne libanaise de souche depuis plus de cinquante ans, citoyenne française pas de souche depuis plus de dix ans, mariée à un Français de souche, maronite de souche, depuis plus de dix ans, il a été naturalisé sunnite depuis plus de dix ans. Je suis née Chiite de souche, à Baabda. En raison de mon mariage, mon état civil a été transféré bien malgré lui, du sud profond à Beyrouth la capitale. De Nabatiyeh à Achrafiyeh. Privée d’état civil à mon insu, depuis le transfert, la seule fois où je me suis décidée à voter aux élections municipales, lors de la campagne « Mon pays, ma
ville, ma municipalité », je me suis rendue au bureau de vote que l’on m’avait attribué, au Lycée de Rmeil. Et là, vous savez ce qu’on me dit : « Sorry Madame, votre nom ne figure pas sur les listes. » Aucune trace de mon nom ou de mon prénom. Un grain de sel qui, sans le savoir, s’était dissout. Tant pis ! Le mensonge est le sel des hommes et il se trouve que je suis une femme ! Cette femme a quatre enfants. Aucun d’eux ne vit dans ce pays, aucun de leurs copains non plus. Une citoyenne qui entre de plain-pied dans la cinquantaine. Elle fait son jogging tous les matins dans Beyrouth, pour éviter le stress et l’ostéoporose. Courir lui procure l’équilibre psychique et physique, grâce aux hormones que cela produit : adrénaline et dopamine, la première a un effet apaisant et l’autre un effet excitant. Lors de sa promenade sportive, elle laisse libre cours à ses rêves, ses désirs, ses espoirs et ses désillusions et elle court, toujours le même parcours, à Beyrouth, cette ville qui détruit pour rebâtir et qui construit pour redémolir. Et hop, c’est parti pour un tour ! Hanane se dresse et entreprend sa marche quotidienne. Elle varie le rythme tout au long de son monologue. Hanane: Je commence ma journée comme ça. Je m’extirpe sans bruit de sous la couette, je m’assieds sur le bord du lit, je mets mes bas de contention, je prends mon cachet pour la thyroïde, j’invoque Dieu. Je prends la bouteille d’eau à côté du lit et je bois, je bois à en perdre le souffle… Je me lève et je sors de la chambre sur la pointe des pieds, je fais mes ablutions, je prie. Je me glisse de nouveau dans la chambre, je prends mon survêtement et mon foulard, j’oublie l’épingle du foulard, je reviens dans la chambre pour la prendre et je ressors pour m’habiller. Retour dans la chambre pour prendre mes baskets et mes chaussettes, je les -41-
enfile et je pense à la banane et à l’IPod, je les attrape… Qu’est- ce qui me manque encore pour avoir le look cool ? Le sweat. Je me le noue à la taille, j’arrive devant la porte et je m’arrête… J’ai sûrement oublié quelque chose… Zut ! Où sont les clés ? Je ne peux pas claquer la porte, ça va réveiller tout le monde. Retour dans la chambre. Je jette un coup d’œil sur la table de nuit, je regarde à côté du lit, parmi les photos sur l’étagère au-dessus du lit, dans les quatre ou cinq sacs à main qui traînent par terre au pied du lit, dans les sacs en papier, dans les cahiers empilés sur la chaise en face du lit, je me plie en deux et je regarde sous le lit, au cas où elles seraient tombées là… Je retourne l’oreiller, la couette, le couvre-lit, je glisse la main dans l’interstice qui sépare mon matelas de celui de mon mari… C’était le bon vieux temps, celui du matelas de l’unité arabe. Que le diable t’emporte Gamal Abdel Nasser* toi et Abdel Halim Hafez**. Je fouille toutes mes poches, je cherche sur la table du téléphone, sur les canapés, entre les coussins, sur le bureau, à côté des médicaments, parmi les télécommandes. Je transpire… En vain. Il y a trois choses que je cherche à plein temps: les lunettes, le parapluie et les clés. Je ne sais jamais où je les ai posés. Ça doit être héréditaire. Je n’ai bien-sûr pas cherché dans le réfrigérateur ou dans la cuisinière ou dans la lessive, parce que je ne suis pas l’héroïne de Dario Fo et je ne suis pas « la femme seule », l’héroïne de sa célèbre pièce, celle qui est si déboussolée qu’elle a rangé les couches avec les surgelés. Je suis la femme voilée cool, l’épouse du metteur en scène de génie. Mon mari, cette montagne qui pèse si lourd sur mon cœur, l’amour de ma vie... Et si je regardais dans le tiroir des culottes ? * Gamal Abdel Nasser, un dirigeant arabe de premier plan, président de l’Egypte à partir de 1956 jusqu’à sa mort en 1970. Nasser a été décrit comme le premier chef d’une nation arabe qui a contesté la domination occidentale du Moyen- Orient. Nasser demeure un personnage vénéré en Egypte et dans le monde arabe. ** Abdel Halim Hafez, mort en 1977, est parmi les chanteurs égyptiens et arabes les plus populaires. Il a été en relation étroite avec le régime de Nasser. Il a chanté les louanges du président Gamal Abdel Nasser en plusieurs occasions.
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