Interview: Playwright and director Messaoud Bouhcine
Interview by Sarah Touahri for Magharebia in Rabat – 25/07/2007
Magharebia: You just directed a play called "Contrada". How is it different from your previous work?
Messaoud Bouhcine: I adopted a new style for the Moroccan spectator: the grotesque. The technique emphasizes the traits of the characters. The characters are skates that move at a frantic and mechanical pace. They speak merely to speak and they act without proper judgement. The story revolves around two foreigners, who plant a plate near a village and leave. Some villagers see them do it. 'That's strange', the villagers think, and the news starts to make its way around. A treasure maybe? The rumour intensifies in the village and the neighbouring villages, winning over the most reluctant minds. Searching, digging, and getting a share become everyone’s obsession. Disillusion: the dream fades…who is responsible? They must find a scapegoat.
Magharebia: Do you believe that this new style is going to attract Moroccan spectators?
Bouhcine: I do not believe in theatre that the spectator does not understand. The play must be accessible to the audience. I emphasize the pleasure of watching an artistic creation. The audience is a fundamental issue. A world of pleasure and reflection must be created for the spectators. They must not be underestimated and should be presented a serious subject.
Magharebia: What do you think about returning to the old repertoire to produce new plays?
Bouhcine: I've already had that experience, with Amed Taib Laalaj's play "Nechba". It was a successful experience. I did a new interpretation of the play. I believe that returning to the repertoire is necessary for numbers of directors. At the world level, in all theatres, there are writers who have reproduced works without the original texts losing their splendour. The repertoire is always present and has a special place at the heart of the audience.
Magharebia: As a young director, how do you see the future of theatre in Morocco?
Bouhcine: In my opinion, Moroccan theatre has never known a rebirth that came from within the art itself. During the 1970s, the notably leftist ideology was behind the creation of a theatre company. Today, politics is no longer a factor in artistic creation. I believe the theatre should be autonomous, independent.
Magharebia: What is the current situation?
Bouhcine: I cannot say that there is a great improvement. But, at the same time, I cannot say it has deteriorated. It is half-way. A strong political will is necessary for theatre to attain the place it deserves, its true place. Even the history of theatre in Morocco must be reread again. There are false conventions inherited from the past, from the 70s: production, exposure and the relation of theatre to society. It is good to have the nostalgia of the 70s, but it is necessary to evolve and modernize work methods. Moroccan theatre can no longer function with only associations and youth clubs. A new government strategy is necessary that will consider Moroccans’ relationship with the theatre so that reconciliation grows. I hope that Moroccan theatre takes root within society. Those who are aware of theatre’s cultural significance must react. A strong culture is necessary for an equally strong democracy.
Magharebia: Why have Moroccan spectators grown so distant from the theatre?
Bouhcine: There are a number of factors to this phenomenon. Television attracted not only the spectator, but the actor as well. Great Moroccan actors are difficult to attract to theatre because they feel the theatre does not offer material gains. However, there are actors who work for television who also love theatre. On the other hand, a problem arose between production conditions and promotion. The play has become difficult in terms of production. The expenses are greater than the proceeds. The media also plays a role in this area. It is called to critique theatre productions so that the public regains confidence in this art. Sometimes, media hype a play up too much, and when spectators see it, they find themselves frustrated. The work must be given the value it merits, no more and no less.
Magharebia: How are you trying to overcome these obstacles to be able to advance?
Bouhcine: Our company is based on collective work and not on financial objectives. We are adopting the strategy of attracting a stable audience. We are trying to develop their loyalty so that they will always attend the presentation of our works. We are trying to attract professional actors, even newcomers, and we are relying on the diversity of the artists. What is important to us is promoting the company.
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