Aleppo. A Portrait of Absence 
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
Mohammad Al Attar (Damas + Berlin)
A new name in Syrian theatre, the writer Mohammad Al Attar, born in Damascus, now lives in Berlin.
A prolific writer since the start of the Syrian uprising in March 2011, his works focuses on the social and political role of theatre, and the Syrian revolution. In2006 he joined, as a playwright, the Studio Théâtre founded in Damascus in 2001 by Omar Abusaada.
He wrote his first play, Withdrawal, in 2007. It is set in a small Damascus apartment where a couple lives and finds refuge from the social control mechanisms of society. After the first large wave of arrests in Syria in 2011, his play Could You Please Look into the Camera? (2012) has people speaking directly to the camera, describing how they were tortured in prison. Those two plays, along with Look at the Streets… This Is What Hope Looks Like (2011), Online (2011), A Chance Encounter (2013) and Youssef Was Here (2013) were presented in London, New York, Seoul, Berlin, Athens, Tunisia and elsewhere.
His play While I Was Waiting made its début at the kunstenfestivaldesarts in Brussels in 2016, and was selected as part of the 70thAvignon Festival before going on to tour Europe.
Omar Abusaada (Damas)
For the past 10 years, Al Attar has been collaborating with the director Omar Abusaada, originally from Damascus.
Together they create theatre that is intimately linked to social and political changes, works that hover on the boundary between fiction and documentation. Adapting Greek tragedies, they created a theatrical trilogy dedicated to the lives of women seeking refuge from war, the geographical and psychological journey of Syrian women, first with Trojan Women (2013) in Jordan, and then Antigone of Shatila (2014) in Lebanon, followed by Iphigenia in Berlin (2017). In 2017 too, they 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. The trio gathered the stories of citizens of Aleppo, bringing a destroyed city back to life through the power of memory.
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.