Syrian Actor Mazen al-Natour performs during "Spring Sonata"
Syrian Actor Mazen al-Natour performs during "Spring Sonata" at a threatre in the Emirati capital Abu Dhabi on May 16. © Karim Sahib - AFP/File
Syrian Actor Mazen al-Natour performs during
Lynne Nahhas, AFP
Last updated: May 21, 2012

Syrian monodrama mocks Assad reforms

Audiences in the UAE, mostly Syrian expats, have been receiving "Spring Sonata," a one-man show mocking Syria's promised programme of reforms in the face of an uprising with tears and applause.

The monodrama, inspired by Ingmar Bergman's 1978 film "Autumn Sonata," tells the story of Issam, a history professor banned from teaching for having refused to forge the grades of a high-ranking Syrian official's daughter.

"You have destroyed the country ... You have destroyed values," he tells the official.

Issam, played by actor Mazen Natoor, left impoverished without employment, struggles to restore the crumbling walls of his room in the hope that he might find a job as a painter.

In one scene, he plays the role of his interrogator who verbally abuses and tortures him as his bloodied face is displayed on a video screen.

Throughout the play, as he is seen plastering and painting in vain over the cracks, he tells them of how the walls -- representing the regime -- need to be torn down and rebuilt from scratch.

"I will fix you means I will fix you. Our reforms are not like theirs," he tells the walls. "To hell with you and your reforms," he says, apparently addressing the Syrian regime.

However, Issam is afraid to raise his voice at the walls or to hit them, as loud banging, like the sound of bullets, is heard from behind them whenever he tries.

But at the end, he vents his anger and smashes the walls.

"We tried as much as possible to point out the areas of corruption in Syria and to explain, even if in little detail, that there is serious worry from what's going on there," playwright Jamal Adam told AFP.

"Demolishing the walls displays our will to demolish these reforms," said Adam. "We tried to ask for freedom in our artistic, peaceful way."

The director, Maher Salibi, says the play, presented in Abu Dhabi, talks about the "humane tragedy of a Syrian citizen ... who is isolated from life for having refused corruption."

"We wanted to the put the spotlight on the big problem of corruption which will have bad effects if we are not able to control it or carry out real reforms," said Salibi.

"Anything crumbling ... must be demolished and rebuilt."

The play, which caused laughter and tears, drew loud applause from those watching who broke into anti-regime chants as they waved the Syrian flag of independence, a symbol of the 14-month-old revolt.

"God, Syria and freedom only," they chanted.

More than 12,000 people, mostly civilians, have died since the uprising against President Bashar al-Assad's rule broke out in March 2011, according to the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

Assad has repeatedly promised reforms since the uprising, inspired by what has become known as the Arab Spring that has led to the ouster of authoritarian leaders in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen.

The play has already been presented in other parts of the United Arab Emirates and is due to go on an international tour.

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