OCTOBER 2023 | Volume 232
by Wajdi Mouawad, trans. Linda Gaboriau
Jericho Arts Centre, 1675 Discovery St.
Scorched, directed by Magda Ochoa, is an epic tale of how war destroys relationships in ways that can never be fixed. Farandula Theatre’s production of Wajdi Mouawad’s chilling and highlypraised 2003 drama is in every way a successful attempt at a very ambitious undertaking. The intimate setting of Jericho Arts Centre makes the play feel as personal as war is to its characters.
The play follows the story of twins Simon (Mauricio Alemar) and Janine (Anna Garoucheva Gonzalez), who take up the task of fulfilling the will of their dead mother Nawal (Amanda Prasow). This leads them to an overwhelming journey of exploration from Montreal to the Middle East to piece together the highly complex and tragic life she led.
The executor of Nawal’s will, Alphonse Lebel (Gregory Calpakis), gives the twins two envelopes, one to be delivered to the father they know nothing about and one to their half-brother who they did not know existed. While Simon is adamant about not wanting to take part in any of this and wants to get the funeral over with, Janine’s curiosity takes her across the Atlantic to find out more. As Janine unmasks the identity of their father, Simon, along with Alphonse, takes on the task of finding their half-brother, leading to the devastating climax that shakes the core of every character on stage.
Partially based on the life of Lebanese communist militant SohaBechara, Nawal’s life takes multiple tragic turns. First, she loses her son to poverty and is separated from the man she loves. Later, she learns to read and write and finds a friend in a young Sawda (NatoAivazashvili),whose companionship inspires her to shoot the military chief responsible for the war. Sawda does not survive and Nawal is imprisoned. There she is raped by Nihad, a militant-turned-prison general, and gives birth to twins, handing them to a prison worker to drown with other newborns - born out of rape in the prison.
All the women in Nawal’s family try to break out of the anger caused by their lack of autonomy from living in a war-torn area. The inter-generational suffering is portrayed via swiftly changing and sometimes overlapping scenes where the stage is divided in two to tell different aspects of the story. Ochoa’s direction is cinematic. With attention to all the highs and lows that the story calls for, Ochoa’s direction adds vitality to the lonesome desert setting of the play.
Alemar and Aivazashvili’s performances are extraordinarily powerful and gain sympathy whereas Amjad Alshaheen’s gory portrayal of Nihad gets the audience intimate with the cruelty of a warzone. Capitalising on the small theatre space and limited set pieces (set design by Gabriela Tejeda), the play highlights the depth of human emotions by letting the actors shine.
Reviewed by Aadya AroraWhile the production may seem small in scale for a story of this magnitude, the team makes every silence heard, every detail seen, and every emotion felt. Farandula Theatre has raised the bar for what Vancouver theatre can offer its audiences.
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