“The old days are gone” – in today’s world of political and social upheaval this line can be applied almost anywhere in the world currently, but in war torn Syria the words of filmmaker Reem Karssli’s grandfather sound even more pertinent.
Living in the UK it is easy to feel removed from horrific events happening in far-flung places, and the experiences of people surviving hardships. Now is the Time to Say Nothing aims to connect audiences to the human stories in Syria beyond the headlines and news broadcasts of explosions and shattered buildings.
The show emerged from a project with a group of London teens to document the daily life of Reem in the warzone. Real stories of real Syrian people are the focus, with the war and government remaining a dark shadow over everything Reem and her family do.
Her story is told through a mixture of documentary footage and immersive theatre. The space consists of 14 armchairs arranged in a circle, each with a pair of headphones, and facing an old TV with a built in VCR. Rather than being passive couch potatoes, the audience is encouraged to move around the room setting and interact with others, led by a narrator, whose soothing voice sounds lifted from a guided mediation app or somewhere.
We witness Reem’s moments of frustration and misery, as well as rare lighthearted moments, like snowfall that allows Damascus residents a chance to venture outside safely in their neighbourhood. This is then beautifully recreated in the theatre with fake snowfall. At another point the audience is instructed to sit closely together on the floor to recreate the experience of a refugee boat trip.
Surprisingly, despite the dark topic Now is the Time to Say Nothing rarely feels too heavy, disturbing, or hard to watch. This is theatre at it’s best, acting as a force of good for Reem, refugees, and Syria in a dark time. It is one of the more powerful, urgent and ambitious things you have watched on stage this year. Who knows when the Syrian war will end, but until it does, it is art forms like this that will have people thinking and debating for a long time. 4/5
Review written by Evan Parker.
Now is the Time to Say Nothing is showing until Saturday 19th October 2019 at the Battersea Arts Centre. To find out more about the production, visit here…