Sitting in the audience while watching Barzakh is an otherworldly experience. Jad Hakawati, the play’s director says he and Roaa Bzeih, who takes centre stage, felt the same way the first time this play was staged in Beirut.
Jad Hakawati first heard about Kampala International Theatre Festival on Facebook. It was an advert for calls of applications to those who wanted to take part. Jad Hakawati is the founder of Minwal Theatre Company, a Lebanese arts company whose aim is to contributing to the Lebanese theatrical and cultural community and for him the opportunity to be at KITF would mean a lot of things.
“It is important to participate in a festival like Kampala International Theatre Festival because, for us, it is a statement. It is a political statement, it is a social statement.”
Jad adds that he was also interested in exploring a new audience. Having performed at Beirut Theatre Festival, it would be a great opportunity to see how it was received elsewhere.
After the application, Jad had a chance meeting with Deborah Asiimwe, Kampala International Festival Director in Morocco at the Sundance Theatre Lab which gave them an opportunity to talk in person about the play and the possibility of it coming to Kampala.
Barzakh explores very ethereal themes and spiritual themes. It is a play based on Roaa Bzeih’s actual life circumstances that involved an accident, her heart stopping to beat for 35 minutes, going into comma and her eventually regaining consciousness. It’s an emotional play that is very personal and required taking critical distance every now and then.
Jad says that whenever he watches the play, he feels what he first felt during the difficult times of Roaa’s accident. The production is a place of healing for both of them and for Roaa whenever she performs it, she becomes more and more normal as opposed to the original nervousness and tension considering it was about her.
The play is originally not subtitled but while at the Festival, there are subtitles over the multimedia screens being used. It’s a performance that engages quite a level of technicality ranging from projecting the image of the actress on the screens beside her and on her body itself.
“When there is an international audience, we use subtitles so that those watching us can understand.” Jad states. He agrees there was a little difficulty in preparing for showing the play in Kampala because of its technical demands but he says,
“Yes, the play takes a lot of technical work, logistical work and administrative work however, we are here, and regardless the challenges, we wanted to present our work in these conditions. We told ourselves we will adapt and indeed we were able to pull off the performance.”
Of course he says there was supposed to be a lot more in the presentation, more light effects, more sound effects but he is not complaining, he’s quite thrilled it has worked out.
Jad and Roaa are thankful to be in Kampala. They are appreciative of the level of artistry present but even more than just that. They are glad to be sharing creative minds, creative spaces and time with other artists.