- 2 Feb 2018 9:06 AM
Wajdi Mouawad is a Lebanese-born Canadian playwright and director. In his childhood his family relocated to France and later to Canada, fleeing from the war in Lebanon.
These events are the most important themes in Mouawad’s work, which revolves around historical traumas and their effect on the families. He wrote his play Incendies (Scorched) in the mid 2000’s. It brought him international recognition and has received a series of awards.
In 2010 the film version was also released, receiving an Oscar nomination in the Best Foreign Picture category.
The story of Incendies focuses on two generations of a family: Nawal, the mother, who emigrated to Canada after the war, and her two twins, Jeanne and Simon, who spent their childhood years in Canada already. They have no direct experience of the war, yet this memory still affects their lives.
The plot of the play unfolds in the form of an investigation: Nawal, in her last will, notifies her children that their father is still alive somewhere and that they also have a brother.
She asks them to find the two lost family members and to give each an envelope. Jeanne and Simon are at first reluctant, but they find no rest from the burden of the past.
They start out on a quest to find their roots, during which they come closer and closer to getting to know Nawal’s story: they submerge into the horrors of the war and start to understand why their mother decided to escape into secrecy and silence.
While uncovering the past, Wajdi Mouawad presents the milieu of the Lebanese wars: this is the era when the clashes between the Lebanese and the Palestinian immigrants are transforming into a twenty-five-year-long war. Hatred begets hatred, as the play ingeniously shows.
What makes Mouawad’s work a masterpiece, as well as one of universal relevance is the fact that it does not focus on specific historical realities, but rather unwraps the poetic potential of its subject matter.
Next to portraying the wantonness of the war, its destructive force, the play focuses on the issues of knowledge and memory.
When leaving her home – a village full of barriers – for the first time in her life Nawal stands out from her kin by having taught herself how to read and write, something her grandmother urged her to do.
When she returns, she carves her name into her tombstone – thus preserving her memory. Learning, writing and documentation: these are the assets which help Nawal strive for a higher life standard and enlightened thinking.
The following events, however, seem to question this very belief in modern ideals: she finds it extremely challenging to face up to the truth and to be able to forgive in the end. Incendies is about the uncertainty of the sense of knowledge just as about finding one’s way back to faith.
“The production of Radnóti Theatre directed by Róbert Alföldi is one of the most important theatre shows of the last years in Hungary, for it talks about one of the most burning and gravest issues today, and while being thorougly thought-provoking it also conveys ideas only to be found in the greatest works of art.” (Bálint Kovács, index.hu)
“Incendies is cathartic, one of the most deeply moving theatre shows of the last years, without any mistake. It nails you to your seat and is a must-see for everybody.” (Sonja Makrai, Magyar Nemzet)
Venue: Radnóti Theater
Address: 1065 Budapest, Nagymező u. 11.
Ticket office: 061 321-0600/119
More: Radnóti Theater