On Saturday afternoon I saw 35 minutes of amazing, heartrending, theatre performed in Arabic with English subtitles. Adrenaline is produced by Theatre Mada in Kitchener, a collective of Arab theatre artists living in the Waterloo Region, and is part of SummerWorks.
I watch movies and TV with subtitles often, probably about 20% of the time. For some reason, it never occurs to me to see theatre in languages other than English or French. I guess I assume there wouldn’t be subtitles. I don’t know why I’d assume that.
Adrenaline was written and performed by Ahmad Meree. He’s a terrific playwright and a very talented actor. There’s nothing in the program or on the Summerworks site about translation, so I don’t know if he translated it or if someone else did.
The play is the story of Jaber, a Syrian man spending his first New Year’s Eve in Canada and remembering his last New Year’s Eve in Syria with his parents and his brother, being attacked by bombs.
He’s alone in Canada and has made ‘figures’ to stand in for his family. He talks to them and responds as if they reply. He brings them gifts, things that he knows they will like and that will make their lives easier. He buys ingredients for a special meal and seats his family around the table. It’s touching, and it’s beautiful.
When fireworks start going off and sound like explosions, he explains that they’re just fireworks, that the people here are celebrating, they’re happy, there’s nothing to be afraid of.
I know that Meree was speaking Arabic and that I was reading the English on the screen behind him but in my mind, it was seamless as if I could understand Arabic or he was speaking English. His acting style was quite natural , something that I really like. When Jaber was talking with his family, Meree was affectionate and animated, but when he was addressing the audience, he was forceful, passionate.
The image of Meree slowly and deliberately cleaning up after the table was knocked over and then sitting down to finish eating his dinner will stay with me for a long time.
Majdi Bou-Matar’s direction and set design worked well together to give the impression of a small space, the apartment, on a fairly large stage. The production felt defined which made it feel safer somehow. The play raises some difficult and painful issues: what is the price of safety? Is it harder to stay in danger with your loved ones or to leave and live alone in safety?
I really liked Laura Johnson-Sherratt’s lighting design, particularly for the bombing scene, all light and shadows.
Adrenaline is an amazing 35 minutes of theatre. It sounds like a short play, but it’s the perfect length. I wouldn’t take kids to see it; maybe mature 15 year olds. Get your tissues out at the beginning when you turn off your phone, you’ll probably need them. Go see Adrenaline. It’s fabulous.
Adrenaline plays at The Theatre Centre, Franco Boni Theatre (1115 Queen Street West).
- Sunday August 12th 7:30pm – 8:05pm
- Saturday August 18th 2:30pm – 3:05pm
- Sunday August 19th 2:15pm – 2:50pm
SummerWorks tickets are now Pay What You Decide at $15, $25, or $35, whichever suits your budget. All tickets are general admission and there are no limits to any price level. Tickets are available at the performance venue (cash only), online, by calling 416-732-4116, and in person at the SummerWorks Central Box Office – located at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West), open August 9-19 from 12pm-8pm. Cash and credit accepted.
Several money-saving passes are available if you plan to see at least 4 shows.
Photo of Ahmad Meree provided by the company