Could You Please Look Into The Camera @ Oran Mor
Some images are impossible to forget - stained like indelible ink on the memory. In 1972, it was the footage of Kim Phuc, the little girl running screaming, burned by napalm in Vietnam. For our generation, it became the aeroplanes crashing into the Twin Towers on September 11, 2001.
Syrian playwright and dramaturg Mohammed Al Attar has seen more than most, having previously documented the testimonies of detainees.He returns to this theme for the first play in the five week season from the Arab nation, Could You Please Look Into The Camera. Noura (Alia Alzougbi) is a documentary maker trying to retain a little hope in the face of horrific accounts of abuse. She struggles though: “I feel the weight of every story...I feel weaker than anyone sat in your place”, she admits.
Each freed detainee copes in their own individual way: Karim (Umar Ahmed) shows the huge scars on his back and feet from beatings and electrodes yet keeps his head held high, even preening for the camera. Farah (Lucy Hollis) meanwhile is like a defiant child, swagger betraying her anger, confessing to Stockholm Syndrome, and “taking pleasure when the beatings stopped”. Finally there’s Zeid (Gerry Mclauchlin); resigned, drawn, almost justifying what happened to him as “a job to do”. An obvious attraction develops between him and Noura, who starts opening up to him.
The camera itself becomes like a fifth character- everyone saying they can “trust it” like a psychiatrist. Offering no easy answers, Could You Please Look... instead brings humanity, a voice that is haunting and full of insight. It is a real shame and a savage irony that Attar, who is in exile in Lebanon, cannot see his own powerful work for himself.