Gripping play “Incendies” shows in Budapest with English surtitles
Silence speaks volumes in “Incendies” (“Scorched”), an engrossing, eye-opening tale by Lebanese-Canadian writer director Wajdi Mouawad, being staged in Hungarian with English surtitles on January 9th and February 8th at the Radnóti Theater in Budapest. Mouawad’s powerful story, made into an Oscar-nominated film by Blade Runner 2049 director Denis Villeneuve, slowly leads the audience on a journey of painful discovery, invoking a mother’s unspeakable pain and the horrors of war. If some things better left unsaid, is there salvation in silence?
Incendies (“Scorched”) is the kind of play that grabs you by the hand and takes you off on an adventure that starts out in all innocence. But the deeper you delve, the more it sneaks under your skin. Then it goes straight for the heart, tightening its grip ever so slowly until its very momentum tears you up and leaves you as speechless as the main character, Nawal.
Battered by life’s brutality, Nawal, a mother of twins who fled to Canada from the wars in the Middle East, spent the last five years of her life in complete silence. Her death is the beginning of a journey of self-discovery for her twin children, Jeanine and Simon. The twins are summoned to the office of an avuncular solicitor who notifies them about their mother’s will. They have to find their father, whom they had assumed was dead, and a brother they never knew, and hand each of them a sealed envelope.
A man of mettle, Simon wishes to hear no more about the matter, saying “She’s dead, and even now she hasn’t finished annoying us”, but rational mathematician Jeanine wishes to embark on the quest at her mother’s request. She delves into Nawal’s war-torn homeland in the Middle East – an unspecified location much resembling Lebanon – where massacres are a way of life, while opening her mother’s heart, slowly nearing and finally reaching the freezing cold core that cracked it. Simon eventually relents, too. The story slowly unfolds through the quest and flashbacks into Nawal’s life, ultimately revealing a horrendous truth illustrating the power in the sound of silence. Heavy but bedazzling, Incendies is a story that stays with you.
The play’s compelling ending is carefully nurtured; while warm, funny and witty scenes feature throughout, somehow the underlying severity of the story lurks ceaselessly in the background. And when the once innocent twins find out the shattering truth that changes their whole lives, at the same time we are forced to open our eyes to the horrors still happening in a faraway world in this day and age. We realize and appreciate how severely war can scar people, places and fates.
Wajdi Mouawad’s play was adapted into the eponymous movie of 2010, nominated for the Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film.
English surtitles can be followed from the balcony.
- 1065 Budapest, Nagymező utca 11.