Donia Mounsef, Mai Hussein


In Testimonies: Crisis of Witnessing in Literature, Psychoanalysis, and History, Shoshana Felman makes the point that a witness is called upon wherever there is crisis of truth and evidence (p. 6). If we migrate with this assumption from the courtroom to the stage, we encounter what Karen Malpede calls "Theatre of Witness" or what Erdmann calls "Theatre of Testimony", which describes many contemporary plays and performances dealing with the representations of the Middle East. This article engages with contemporary theatre’s obsession with remembrance and the way the stage dramatizes the act of "bearing witness" in plays such as Wajdi Mouawad’s Scorched, Judith Thompson’s Palace of the End, and in multi-media performances such as Wafaa Bilal’s Shoot an Iraqi, and “…and Counting”. These plays and performances construct memory as a dual process of retrospective spatio-temporal narrative accounts, combined with physically enacted mnemonic flashbacks. This paper argues that the “memorialist turn” in theatre is a process of double disavowal that problematizes the witnessing of trauma and the trauma of witnessing, focusing on how the individual tries to remember or reconstruct what happened in the realm of the “real”, while escaping into the fantastical when the demands of bearing witness become severe. Finally, this paper addresses the modalities of perception of the audience bearing witness to witnessing, arguing that theatre does not construct the real or re-construct it for the audience, on the contrary if estranges it, not unlike Brechtian alienation, revealing an exchange that is both realist and anti-realist, artistic representation and reproduction of actuality, spectacle and mimesis, marking the relationship between the translocal forms of memory and the performative possibility of an aesthetic openness toward otherness.



Palabras clave

Theatre, Performance, Trauma, Witnessing, Memorialist Turn, Translocal Memory, Middle East Representation, Judith Thompson, Wajdi Mouawad, Wafaa Bilal.

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