MORE THAN A PLAY
While “God of Carnage” was enjoying an exceptional success in the whole world in Paris, Berlin, London, New York, Tokyoetc. Roman Polanski fell in love with the play and made it a movie “Carnage” in 2011 with actors such as Kate Winslet, and Jodie Foster. Today, “God of Carnage”, for the first time translated in Arabic, arrived in Lebanon. Written by Yasmina Reza, winner of the 2009 Tony Award for Best Play, the play relates the meeting of two civilized couples who try to resolve the fight that happened between their two sons in the playground, but tension takes over. The couples argue against each other, the men gang up on the women, the spouses switch sides before the carnage gets bigger…
AN EXCEPTIONAL ADAPTATION
Carlos Chahine, actor and director, whose work is awarded in a number of international festivals, is the director of this adaptation in Lebanese Arabic language. Comic and dramatic show “God of Carnage” is dedicated to all public. Carlos Chahine gathered the best Lebanese talents for every complex pieces of the production. The script, actors, set, light, sound, music and costuming make a unified whole where creativity enchants the audience during 1h30 of real entertainment.
16 SPECIAL SHOWS
“God of Carnage” is performed in Lebanon at Monot Theater by Fadi Abi Samra, Carole El Hajj, Bernadette Hodeib and Rodrigue Sleiman. You already loved them in movies such as: Beirut Hotel, Carlos, Kosset thawani, When Mariam spoke and Stray Bullet…
EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW WITH ACTOR AND DIRECTOR CARLOS CHAHINE
BY MARIECHRISTINE TAYAH
WHAT CAUG HT YOUR ATTENTION IN YASMINA REZA’S TEXT, ‘LE DIEU DU CARNAGE?’
I chose this text because I wanted a comedy, a text that could target a broad audience. Since it’s the first time I realize a project in Lebanon, I felt I wanted to address a wide public, on a larger scale than the francophone spectators who are used to theater.
I found that Yasmina Reza is a real author with a special kind of writing and a unique universe. This comedy can seem a light one, but as one analyzes it, one realizes that it has a certain perspective on the world, and which is very personal and kind of dark after all. I think that this was interesting to me.
DO YOU PRE FER BEING ON STAGE OR BACKSTAGE?
I’m not backstage when it comes to this project. I’m with the actors. I really like both in a different way. I love to be on stage. For my future project, which is a feature film, I like to be the director. For the short movie I have realized, I wrote it, directed it, and acted in it. I hesitated long before I decided whether to act or not in this play. Still, when it comes to theater, it’s hard to act, be in the play, and on the outside at the same time. So I said to myself that I will be on the outside and I am really happy to work with the actors, and especially these ones, they are just great. To sum it up, I would say I’m happy to be on both sides of the stage.
WHAT WAS THE ACTORS ’ CHOICE BASED ON?
I have done many text readings. There were actors I knew. I knew Fadi Abi Samra before, I appreciate him a lot, already worked with him and would like to work with him again. I didn’t know the three other actors. I met a lot of actors and had play readings with them. At the end, everything is based on intuition. I met brilliant people. I would say that my choice criteria were based on a mix of human relations, talent, and a lot of other things.
HOW WOULD YOU MO VE FROM ONE EMOTION TO ANOT HER IN THIS PLAY WHERE EMOTIONS ARE AT THEIR PARO XYSM? WHAT IS THE IMPORTANCE OF DIRECTING ACTORS?
It’s easier than this. I cannot communicate to the actors the emotions they would feel. I can only help them understand the situation they are in and what are the text meanings, for them to understand their situation. The closer they get to a situation, the more they can imagine what is going on and thus, play, just as children, to be in this situation, and let the emotion come naturally. Afterwards, it’s a kind of mental gymnastics they should practice rapidly.
WHEN IT COMES TO DIRECT THE ACTORS’ SILENCE, WHAT WOULD YOU DO SO THAT THEY STILL STAY ANCHORED IN THEIR EMOTIONS?
It’s up to them to do it. There is nothing I can do about it. In this play, there are moments that Yasmina Reza calls suspensions, which are justified by each situation. If the situation is right, and if the actors are right where they should be, their silences are right too.
WOULD THE RE HEARSALS WITHOUT AN AUDIENCE HAVE THE SAME ENERGY THAN WITH AN AUDIENCE?
The rehearsals advantage is that there is no audience. We can do whatever we want and we can get wrong. During a rehearsal, we don’t have to be efficient. Rehearsals help actors know more what they should do precisely at each moment of the show so that would be able to have fun while acting in front of an audience, since they would know exactly what needs to be done.
HOW EASY OR DIFFICULT WOULD IT BE TO TRANSLATE THE OCCIDENTAL CULTURE IN A PLAY? EVEN WHEN IT COMES TO THE TE XT, THE WORDS IN ARABIC ARE VERY DIFFERENT. TO WHAT EXTEND WAS THIS DIFFICULT OR EASY?
It was very difficult. I would also say it was the most difficult part of this work because Yasmina Reza is an author who protects her work very well and she is right. For example, I have no right to change anything. Even the first names stay the same. Annette, Veronique, for Lebanese people –which is absurd. But this is the way it should be. So we tried with Randa Asmar who translated the play to find a uniformity, and a kind of situation that could be credible for the Lebanese audience, so that they would not say it is a play dedicated to museums. They should relate to it as if it is a play for a Lebanese audience.
Let them say these are people like us. They are Lebanese. OK she’s called Annette, and this is not necessarily related to a particular group in Lebanon. Also, in the text, there are many references to Paris and to the Occidental world. We tried to adapt it as much as possible so that spectators feel home.
So yes, it is very difficult, for the actors. It’s difficult for them to call their son Ferdinand. For Lebanese people, that’s the way it is. This is all related to the beauty of theater, so that it could exist like that, universally. Unfortunately, after all these years, Lebanon has been isolated from the international history of festivals. I think that Lebanese people have lost the real meaning of theater. If theater doesn’t speak to them about their daily stuff, it’s not interesting to them.
There are many conflicts in this play. Conflicts within themselves, conflicts with a group, conflicts of men and women and vice versa.
HOW EASY OR DIFFICULT WOULD IT BE TO DIRECT ACTORS IN THIS TURMOIL OF CON FLICTS?
I try not to think about it this way because it’s too complicated. I only try to direct the actors and lead them through the situation they’re encountering, as per how the text allows us to identify it. We analyze things together but I don’t analyze things before in order to tell the actors what to do. I try alongside them. For instance, maybe the character thinks this way, maybe he says this sentence because he hates her or because he loves her. We just think out loud in order to come up with better results.
WOULDN ’T IT BE RISKY TO MA KE THAT KIND OF THEATER IN LEBANON ESPECIALLY THAT CULTURE IS CURRENTLY NOT AT ITS PEAK?
I don’t think this way. I only do what I like to do.
Because I love theater, because I am a theater actor, because I’m Lebanese, because I love Beirut, and because at the time being, I have a lot of time, and I had this opportunity to do that, so I’m doing it. But that’s all, that’s where it stops. It’s a desire story. I had the desire to do that and so I did it. I don’t overthink things. At the end, my concern is my desire and I try to share it in Beirut with the audience and hope they will be happy.
ANY MESSAGE FOR YOUNG ACTORS?
Good luck, because it’s hard. When it comes to me, I started very late my acting profession. I was 25 by that time. I was in France and studied medicine. Later on, I had a dentist diploma. Afterwards, I switched profession because I like theater. When I started theater, I was in my fifth year of dentist studies. I wanted to stop my studies but I didn’t do it and so I graduated. Afterwards, I decided to follow theater studies.
IS ACTING A PASSION?
It’s a desire. A passion is something that enflames us. A desire is a thing against which we cannot fight. When we are inhabited with desire, there is nothing we can do, because our desire commands us. It’s part of our fate. It’s different from one’s passion.
And actor’s job is a hard job. It is an ungrateful job made of lack and moments of doubt. I wouldn’t encourage anyone to be an actor of theater. Still, at the same time, nobody needs encouragement nor discouragement.
I would never say it’s marvelous, do it. I would say, if you have the desire to do it, go ahead. However, it is hard because it’s not easy to make a living out of it and because an actor is at the disposal of the director’s desire.
It’s also nonstop questioning; ‘Will I find a job? Will I be chosen for a role?’ When an actor is on stage, it’s marvelous… But when he’s not on stage, what is he? He’s nothing. An actor who doesn’t work is very unhappy. The moments when an actor is on stage are marvelous. Nevertheless, it’s only 5% of a lifetime. Sometimes it’s 1%. What would be done with the remaining time? It is the remaining time that is hard to cope with.
When we are on stage, we are happy. When we act, we are happy. Still, when I go back home to Paris and I have nothing to do, how would I fill my days?
IS IT EMPTINESS?
It’s the absence of meaning. I should always renew, think, work, hope that someone will think of me or that I will move forward with a new project. It’s not that simple, but it’s marvelous. I have nothing to complain about at all but all I’m saying is that it’s not an easy job.
WHAT WOULD YOU SAY TO MA KE TRIBUTE TO THEATER?
I have worked with a director, Michel Vinaver, who is an important author and the most important author alive. We performed two shows in Paris. He must be 85 by now. What was incredible is that he liked nothing but the small simple things. No ornaments. He was sensitive to the small stuff. If I was to make tribute to theater, I would say that theater is marvelous because it is beautiful. We are directly linked to one another, we are directly related to an outcome, to someone’s writing, to the relation of a director with the world.
We are in the relationship between us and ourselves, our body and others’ bodies. We’re into something very simple. Theater was linked to simple people before. We are far from the image of a cinema actor, a star who dresses well.
And actor is on the contrary someone who puts himself in every night, who runs the streets, who doesn’t earn enough money, who plays, like a child, on stage, just like he would be in a recreational playground. This is what would be beautiful about theater… its fragility.
We could be acting great one night and the next day, we could forget our text. It happened to me to have a memory lapse, and it’s horrible, but that’s the way it is. This is life. We are human beings, not machines.
People look at you, the audience, like that, because suddenly, they have the impression of sharing a human adventure. It’s maybe the human adventure that I find beautiful. It’s a beautiful human adventure.