In the dark months of this year, I worked on Incendies, a play by Wajdi Mouawad on a family drama in the midst of war and fleeing, which ended as Kecharitomene, a collection of scenes and sand drawings.
A WAR THAT ISN’T MINE
Briefly, the play: Incendies is about Nawal, mother of Jeanne and Simon, who left letters with unknown information about her past after her death. Jeanne and Simon go in search of the truth of their mother and of their own past.
What touched me the most when I first read the play was the incredible extremes that these family members go through to find each other. In all situations and in all times. The search to find the other, whatever the consequences may be. That is the light in the darkness of this world of war in which so much has been broken. Love is its continuous driving force.
For me, in collaboration with scenographer Fleur Ummels, the challenge was to align that war, a war we could only read about, with the understanding of our world, and the world of Jeanne and Simon. Imagination turned out to be the bridge between the two and we build a universe out of sand to let our actors and musicians work in.
WRITTEN IN SAND
Incendies has all sorts of timelines. Jeanne is the person who starts the search for her mother in the present. To get to Nawal, she makes a sensory reconstruction of her mother in the form of, among other things, sand drawings, clothing and old music. She builds the world her mother lived in in order to understand why she made certain choices in her life.
From all those reconstructions, Jeanne’s dream world arises. A world in the sand in which all the characters from other timelines live their stories. Jeanne is initially the only one who gets to see this world, but as Simon becomes involved in her journey, he also starts to see and experience the stories from their past. This all starts wonderfully enthusiastic, but as the story continues, the twins discover the darkness of the truth and their world becomes more and more like a nightmare. The fairy tale disappears, and the cold reality takes over. Their true origin is inescapable.
Kecharitomene could be seen on 17 December 2019 at the Toneelacademie Maastricht. It was played by Emma van den Elshout, Roel Leenders, Talla Dirkzwager, Lore Gregoor and Merel de Vroome.