On August 4, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., Julien Boutros rushed into the tunnel at the exit of Beirut towards his village in South Lebanon. He does not know that in exactly 60 seconds, half the city will collapse on its inhabitants. When the light hits his windshield again, Julien does not have time to wonder what these dozens of Lebanese were doing parked on the side of the road, their eyes haggard and their faces livid with fear, that the voicemail on his cell phone panic. ” Where are you ? Are you fine ?
Give us your news, ”his brother persists on the other end of the line. He had felt nothing, heard nothing. “I had been catapulted for a few moments into a parallel world, this tunnel could have been in any other city in the world, and time had stopped as if by magic. Nina Simone’s voice continued to sing a melody and her dog didn’t understand a thing. He had to arrive in the village, come to his senses, make sure all his loved ones were safe and sound, and head back to town 24 hours later. Like thousands of Lebanese, broom in hand and despair deep in their eyes, he was going to face the unspeakable and confront the destruction, the losses, the open wounds and those that would never heal again. Like thousands of Lebanese, he was going to function like an automaton, completely anesthetized, to collect his city and what remained of his strength and determination and tell himself that all was not lost “as long as we were alive”. Like thousands of Lebanese, Julien had not assessed the impact of the trauma and the psychological shock that this August 4 was going to trigger, and especially the obsession with glass… For weeks, there will be it everywhere and his text, put on stage at the Tournesol theatre, will say: “There were some in the sheets, in the curtains, in our plates, in the air conditioners, in the children’s toys, under the pillows, in the history books, there are was everywhere…” It wasn’t until a few months later, when his dog knocked over a glass…in glass, and Julien tried to pick up the shards and his hand trembled, that everything would come back to him. “I had to write a play around the glass,” he says. Inspired by Tennessee Williams’ Glass Menagerie, Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass and Kristallnacht (name given to a succession of anti-Semitic pogroms that broke out on the night of November 9 to 10, 1938, on the set German territory, by order of Adolf Hitler), his play, Heart of Glass, with three main actors, Hiba Najm (who embodies the two female roles), Karim Chebli (in the skin of the two male roles) and Tony Farah ( the bartender), was to see the light of day a year later. Blondie’s song Heart of Glass will be performed on stage in five versions.
Are we as fragile as glass?
It is the bartender who leads the ball of the narration, by telling the story which is played and will be played before the eyes of the spectators. On a table, at the back of the bar he manages, he notices a young man (whom the spectator will not see but who he will imagine very well thanks to the talent of the narrator) observing two couples seated opposite him . In fact, he is building a story for them. This young man is somewhere the director behind the scenes who pulls the strings of the narrative.
The first story is inspired by The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams. We are in the United States, in the 1930s. Laura is a simple, elusive young girl with a sickly, even worrying, shyness. She does not leave the apartment and devotes her hours to maintaining her collection of glass animals, she is like a piece of her own collection of animals, too fragile to leave her shelves. A dinner to which is invited Jim, a friend of her brother, is organized in the hope that this nice ordinary young man will get her out of her confinement. He will be just another delusional dream, and when Laura shows him his favorite piece, a unicorn, “a race that no longer exists in the modern world”, he accidentally drops it and breaks its horn and with it. object the girl’s fragility. Here she is freed from her handicap. Jim was an average student in his youth, a rotten, arrogant child who was wooed by all the girls in school and who realizes that he was never able to achieve the success he hoped for. Jim has an oversized ego and struggles to come to terms with his unfulfilled dreams.
The second story, inspired by Arthur Miller’s Broken Glass, tells the story of Sylvia, a middle-aged woman with a mysterious paralysis of her legs. Is his illness the consequence of his identification with the Jews currently persecuted by the Nazis in Hitler’s Germany? Or is it related to her husband’s withdrawal of physical affection and his ambivalent attitude towards his own Jewishness. The fact remains that she is convinced of her physical handicap and definitely in love with her attending physician, Dr. Hayman. But Sylvia is above all stuck in what society and the politics of the world of the 1930s impose on her. Dr. Hyman believes Sylvia’s paralysis to be psychosomatic, and despite not being a psychiatrist, begins treating her based on her diagnosis. Throughout the play, he probes her innermost secrets and learns more about the problems she faces in her personal life, especially in her marriage. A professional conscience pushes him to try to find the roots of his illness and to cure his patient becomes his determining mission, but prevents him from indulging in the love he feels for her.
The three characters are embodied by actors as talented as they are convincing, who brilliantly play fragility, weakness and tenderness. “The passion for the theater and their love for this profession are what best characterizes them”, admits the director. And when at the end of the play, Hiba Najm picks up the bottles, she is no longer Sylvia or Laura, she is all those Lebanese women who tried to pick up their lives, every morning that followed August 4, 2020.
Get out of confinement
The Brechtian staging is a perfect mise en abyme. “There are two relationships, confides the director, that of the staging which depicts the reality of the bartender and that of the stories told through the fictitious customer. The existing glass on the boards of the theater highlights the relationship of the actors with their fragility. »
Heart of Glass is a story of confinement: that of Laura in a psychological malaise, that of Sylvia in a physical but psychosomatic handicap, that of Jim in his ego and that of Hayman in his principles. Without forgetting the trigger tunnel of all these confinements, which led Julien Boutros on the path of these stories. This tunnel which catapulted him into a parallel world and which will make him approach confinements which one can only escape by fleeing, except that Julien Boutros and his characters will end up confronting reality and perhaps going beyond it. In this play, neither the 4th of August nor its murderous explosion are explicitly mentioned, but intelligently suggested by the trauma of the actors and by the presence of glass bottles strewn on the ground. And when the characters move in an unbearable crash and din of glass, it is first of all a discrepancy between the scene that is playing and the background sound which is reminiscent of the discrepancy of August 4, 2020 and Julien in the tunnel, but it is also a sound like a shock that goes straight to the hearts of the spectators and reminds us that we are all victims of a trauma that has left us with a painful memory and which, for once, does not is not transparent but piercing. Just like glass!
At the Tournesol theatre, tonight Saturday June 18 and tomorrow Sunday June 19, at 8:30 p.m.
Tickets at Antoine Ticketing.
Actor, director and Lebanese theater and audiovisual teacher, Julien Boutros began his theatrical career in 2007 while still a high school student, with his first play Beyn el-asouad el-feteh wel asouad el-ghame’ (Between the two blacks) at the Athénée theater in Jounieh. In 2008, he wrote and directed his second play, Noss Noss. After obtaining his BA in theater at the Lebanese University in 2011, he followed a one-year internship at the Regional School of Actors in Cannes and Marseille, returned to Lebanon in 2012 and embarked on his theatrical career. In December 2017, he directed The City by Martin Crimp. Heart of Glass is his fifth play, which mixes writing with adaptation.
Heart of Glass is a free adaptation of Broken Glass by Arthur Miller and The Glass Menagerie by Tennessee Williams, directed by Julien Boutros who also designed the scenography and lighting. With Hiba Najm, Tony Farah and Karim Chebli
Adaptation and translation: Malek Abi Nader
Assistant director: Karl Hadifé
Dramaturgy: Elias Daaboul.
On August 4, 2020, at 6:30 p.m., Julien Boutros rushed into the tunnel at the exit of Beirut towards his village in South Lebanon. He does not know that in exactly 60 seconds, half the city will collapse on its inhabitants. When the light hits his windshield again, Julien has no time to wonder what these dozens of Lebanese were doing…