D-Sisyphe (pronounced as in the French ‘décisif’, meaning ‘decisive’ in English) is an important piece of performance, both as a creative expression that fuses contemporary dance with physical theatre and as an insight into the kind of socio-political situation of Tunisians that ultimately led to the 2011 uprisings that began in Tunisia and spread across the Middle East. The piece offers a humanised perspective of one man, Khmais, with his own feelings of loss and desperation at what he sees as the wreckage of his life – loathed by his wife and son, rejected by society and having lost faith in God, he is alone and afraid.
The play follows Khmais for one night at the construction site where he works, overthinking his life. Award-winning actor Meher Awachri developed D-Sisyphe as his final project at university, starting with a text he had written based upon The Myth of Sisyphus by Albert Camus. In an interview with al.arte magazine, Awachri described how the book raised questions for him “about my life in Tunisia before the revolution during the time of dictatorship, about the problems within Tunisian society and about my problems with society. Camus compares the absurdity of man’s life with the situation of Sisyphus. In D-Sisyphe I created a Tunisian version of Sisyphus”.
As Awachri’s character Khmais begins to sense the true magnitude of his loss he begins to realise that this also somehow brings him a sense of freedom and strength – with nothing to lose he finds himself able to face his oblivion and rebel. Awachri adds, “Inevitably he suffers the same fate as Sisyphus: Khmais is punished, rejected and perpetually tortured. However, this time the hell is his own choice.” This feeling of having nothing to lose really does echo the feelings of the people during the ‘Arab Spring’, where people’s sense of dignity and self-worth were so low that there was seemingly little fear of the consequences of their protests.
But D-Sisyphe is more than a simply nostalgic reflection on the roots of the ‘Arab Spring’. It is a piece that questions the ways in which the future is envisioned in Tunisia and how it can be achieved – it is about construction, both literal and metaphorical. Awachri explains, “In Tunisia and many Arab countries we just build without thinking about what we need; there is a lack of vision. With this piece I want to push people to ask questions and contemplate on what we need […] In my opinion, if we want this revolution to be a success, we need to ask more questions in order to formulate clear goals.” Awachri’s performance is a declaration and an invitation to his fellow Tunisians – there is a need to be more D-Sisyphe.
D-Sisyphe will take place at Rich Mix on Saturday 18 & Sunday 19 July at 7.30pm. For more information and to book tickets visit our website here.
Aimee Dawson is this year’s Shubbak Festival writer-in-residence. She is a London-based writer and blogger on contemporary art from the Middle East and North Africa and the Editorial Assistant at Ibraaz.org.