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© Pierre Yves Massot

Aleppo. A Portrait of Absence [2020]

Mohammad Al Attar, Omar Abusaada,
Bissane Al Charif

Aleppo, a city destroyed by war, rises from the ashes in the stories of its inhabitants. Precious tales told to one spectator at a time, a testimonial and a bequest.


Aleppo, a beloved city, a city destroyed. But remembered by its exiled citizens. Their stories bring back to life a hill, a mosque, a popular restaurant, all reduced to ruins. Aleppo. A Portrait of Absence conveys the cruelty of war but also the fundamental power of memory in the face of destruction.

The Syrian playwright Mohammad Al Attar gathered ten stories from ten inhabitants of Aleppo and then entrusted them to ten Montreal actors. Seated at the same table in the touching vertigo of one-on-one, an actor tells one of the precious tales to one spectator. Against a backdrop of an oversized map of Aleppo and in the intimacy of a theatre space, a city is reborn, a culture and a past brought back to life. A look at a Syria that goes beyond the clichés of the bombarded country portrayed in the media, Aleppo gives voice to those who resist, who forcefully reconstruct with words the beauty of a place now buried in rubble. Necessary.


Produced by HKV-Haus der Kulturen der Welt (Berlin) + Zürcher Theater Spektakel (Zürich)
Concept and Text Mohammad Al Attar in collaboration Omar Abusaada + Bissane Al Charif
Directed by Omar Abusaada
Set Design Bissane Al Charif
Production Manager Meret Kiderlen
Interviews by Sadik Abdul Rahman + Marcell Shehwaro + Odai Al Zoubi
Map Design Alia Ramadan
Translation Katharine Halls + Reem Harb + Lina Mounzer (English) + Nathalie Bontemps (French)

Presented with the support of Cole Foundation+ Goethe-Institut Montréal + Ministère fédéral des Affaires étrangères d’Allemagne in association with Monument-National + La maison de la Syrie

Written by Elsa Pépin
Translated by Neil Kroetsch

Premiered at Haus des Kulturen der Welt (Berlin), on September 21, 2017

Presented with the support of


© Giorgia Fanelli

Mohammad Al Attar (Damas + Berlin)

A new name in Syrian theatre, the writer Mohammad Al Attar, born in Damascus, now lives in Berlin.

Full biography
© Pierre Yves Massot

Omar Abusaada (Damas)

For the past 10 years, Al Attar has been collaborating with the director Omar Abusaada, originally from Damascus.

Full biography

Bissane Al Charif (Damas + Paris)

In 2017, Mohammad Al Attar and Omar Abusaada presented in Berlin Aleppo. A Portrait of Absence, working with the set designer Bissane Al Charif, a frequent collaborator. A native of Damascus now living in Paris, she also has been using her art in support of the Syrian people since 2011.