‘Camera‘ zooms in on Syria
By Kwon Mee-yoo
A Syrian play “Can You Please Look at the Camera?” brings to life the political unrest in the Middle East at Stage 111 of the Doosan Art Center in central Seoul, from today.
The play centers around an amateur documentary director, who tries to document people arrested during the Syrian revolution.
The Syrian uprising began as a democratization movement demanding the resignation of President Bashar al-Assad in January 2011. It turned into violent clashes as the opposition forces used armed retaliation. More than 10,000 people have been killed during the uprisings that continued for more than a year, according to the U.N.
“When the revolution started in Syria, there was a difference. People started to take photos and document everything on their mobile phones. They used new technologies to upload those to YouTube and shared everything,” Omar Abu Saada, the Syrian director of the play, told The Korea Times.
Abu Saada studied at the Higher Institute of Dramatic Arts in Damascus and established the Studio Theatre Company, including debut work “Insomnia” (2004), “Al Merwad wa Al Mekhala” (2009) and “Look at the Streets” (2011). He had stayed in Korea through Gyeonggi Creation Center’s residency program last year and Doosan Art Center and Festival Bom invited him to return and stage a play this year.
“I think the documentary format is an important question in Syria. You don’t know what truth is and what is not and it is the most essential question in the play as well,” he said.
He arrived in Korea with his cast and crew in early April to add the final touches to the play.
Most of the quotes in the play are real. “Writer Mohammad Al Attar interviewed people who were released from prison and these are real stories of people in Syria,” the director said.
Since the play takes the documentary as the main platform, it involves a lot of film. “I work with a video documentary director who shot all material in the play,” Abu Saada said. “I use her because she was arrested and knows about the experience.”
The dialogue is from actual comments that came from interviews, but the playwright restructured them according to the storyline and the relationships between the characters.
“I always think that theater is about politics. A play has to share what happened in society with its audience. That’s what I believed from the first,” he said.
“Can You Please Look at the Camera?” is based on the Syrian Revolution and aims to let people know about what is going on in Syria. However, Abu Saada emphasized that this is theatrical art.
“I am a theater director and I want to share my artistic experience with the people. Presenting a quality play is important to me,” he said.
Though the play is about the Syrian revolution, it cannot be performed in his country and premieres in Seoul.
“It’s an adventure for me. I’m waiting for the audience and how they will see this play,” Abu Saada said.
“Can You Please Look at the Camera?” runs through April 29. Originally, the play was set for a longer run, but they shortened the period to the end of April. The situation in Syria changes daily and the group decided to go back early to reunite with their families.
The play will be performed in Arabic with Korean subtitles. Tickets cost 10,000 won to 30,000 won.
There will be a discussion forum on the play on April 27 at 4 p.m. with Abu Saada as well as the playwright Al Attar and other Middle East experts. Those who want to participate in the forum can apply by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
For more information, call (02) 708-5001 or www.doosanartcenter.com.