Beyond the Revolution

November 21, 2021 | By | Reply More

First hand experience of Arab Spring brought to stage

December 2010 saw the start of what was to become known as the Arab Spring, as revolution spread across the Middle East. Mariem Omari was in Iraq at the time working in a humanitarian role and saw events unfold first hand.

Ten years on, the Australia-born playwright, has brought her experiences to the stage with Revolution Days, a one woman show opening at Assembly Roxy this Tuesday, staged by the Glasgow-based theatre company Bijli, directed by Shilpa T-Hyland and staring Raghad Chaar.

Revolution Days publicity image

Revolution Days follows Samira, an Aid Worker from Scotland, who goes through a baptism of fire during the ‘Revolutions’ in the Middle East. Believing she can make a difference, she takes on every mission, until, against a backdrop of war and violence, she is confronted by her own vulnerability.

“In December 2010, at the start of the Arab Spring, I was working as a humanitarian for Medecins Du Monde – the sister organisation of Medecins Sans Frontieres,” says Omari, who had moved to her father’s homeland in the Middle East to work as a humanitarian, where she worked with refugees and survivors of violence.

“I was in Iraq interviewing Kurdish medics when we heard that there was unrest in Tunisia, and a man had set himself on fire in the street in Tunis.

“The impact of that was like nothing we had ever seen before. Usually it is one or two countries – an uprising, or conflict. But this was country after country, and the doctors I was working with were being deployed all over the region.

“My job was to accompany them and take testimonies from people involved in the revolutions, so I could file reports to head office on what was happening. We quickly realised as the revolutions continued, that the governments of certain countries were killing their own people on mass.”

autobiographical

Omari says that the play is – for the most part – autobiographical; a true retelling of what she experienced, although real names and identifying details have been changed to protect the individual identities.

She has also given the main character a different name to her own, which she says has help create a sense of perspective when diving deep into difficult memories.

“I don’t think I initially made a deliberate decision to turn this into a piece of theatre,” she says, “but as I continued writing, and started to think about the importance of an audience as her confidante, it became clear that this was meant to be a piece of theatre.

“Equally the audience is her community. And in the end, she is coming back to her Scottish community with a story to tell.”

Raghad Chaar in rehearsal. Pic: Bijli Productions.

This is Omari’s fourth script for Bijli, which she founded with writer and director Umar Ahmed after returning to Scotland, her Mother’s birth country. Omari’s three previous works have all used verbatim theatre techniques, or first person accounts, to examine hard-to-discuss topics.

Yet despite the difficulty of investigating such topics as the lived experience of honour-based violence in ethnic minority communities around Scotland, in If I Had A Girl, or how the impact of childhood experiences shape men’s adult lives in One Mississippi, this has been a tougher experience, she says.

“I found writing Revolution Days much more challenging compared to my verbatim plays, such as One Mississippi. I think with other people’s stories, I am very protective of them and their words, and feel a strong sense of duty to convey their stories as they told them. I don’t question the way they remembered their ‘truth’.

“But while writing Revolution Days, I was constantly questioning myself about the facts – did it happen this way? Or was I too unwell to remember? I was also mining myself for information that meant I had to remember things that I didn’t want to remember…”

Listings & Links:

Revolution Days
Assembly Roxy, 2 Roxburgh Place, EH8 9SU
Tue 23/Wed 24 Nov 2021
Evenings: 7.30pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Tramway, 25 Albert Drive, Glasgow G41 2PE
Fri 26/Sat 27 Nov 2021
Evenings: 7.30pm; Sat mat: 2pm.
Tickets and details: Book here.

Bijli Productions:
Website: http://bijliproductions.com.
Twitter: @bijliproduction.
Facebook: @bijliproductions.

ENDS

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