As soon as Abu Saqer's brother, an expat who has spent almost three decades in Canada, returns to Jordan, he listens to a harsh and accurate description of the changes and the pitfalls of politics in Jordan and the Arab world. Surprised by the harsh status quo that his brother is describing, the expat asks for an explanation. Abu Saqer then makes it easier for him and asks him one simple question about the formation of governments in Canada.
"Simple my brother, in Canada, the parliament forms the government, here in Jordan, it is the other way around, our governments form the parliament!" explains Abu Saqer, the main character in a political play entitled "Al 'An Fahimtkom" which translates into "Now I understood you".
The play's title and script are inspired by deposed Tunisian President Zine Al-Abidine Ben Ali, who only seemed to understand his people when they took to the streets to express their anger and quest for democracy.
Only now I understood you: Abu Saqer also performs a number of national songs that capture the scenes
The satire that characterized the play was described by many as "too honest and genuine that it makes you cry and laugh at the same time". Scenes acutely capture the street pulse, criticizing governments and tackling corruption cases that are discussed within the majority of households.
Stunned by the audacity of the play, one would think that it is the same conversation that a group of people could have within closed doors, but it is now taking place on stage and in front of 400 spectators every day in Amman.
Abu Saqer is a Jordanian citizen who seems to know all about the happenings in the country and has a sharp eye for details. He is well informed on corruption cases and the people who are misusing his money and resources and has succeeded in expressing his disenchantment in humorous descriptions of a harsh reality.
At home, Abu Saqer, the main character of this performance, represents the worst of a Patriarchal society, as he takes the role of a repressive father who thinks he can control his wife and children forever. Following a series of events, the children unite and become determined to ask for their freedom, even when it means confronting their long-feared father.
The mother, who is the father's last supporter, joins the "revolutionaries" and expresses solidarity, asking the head of the family to leave the house. When he finally understands his family, it becomes too late and the concessions he makes are not sufficient.
Reading his last speech, in which he follows the strategy of the deposed presidents, he offers his family additional allowances and additional freedoms at home. When he gets no response, he sheds a few tears and asks "where is my next destination? Sharm el Shaikh or Saudi Arabia? Where would I go now?"
Renowned Jordanian actor Musa Hijazin stars in the play, authored by renowned satire writer Ahmad Hassan Zu'bi and directed by Mohammad Al-Dmour. The play has succeeded in breaking too many taboos, corresponding to the spirit the Arab world has been witnessing ever since the inception of Arab spring.
In one of the scenes, Abu Saqer updates his brother on the happenings and come to mention the King. As the monarch is rarely criticized in public, albeit this has changed to a large extent in the aftermath of the Arab spring, when the actor wants to mention the king, he raises his eyebrows and finger to indicate that he means someone from "the upper level".
The gesture, drawing the applause and laughter of hundreds, is common among Jordanians who use it as a code to talk about or criticize the monarch and evade prosecution.
With the exception of few remarks, there is a wide recognition of the audacious and genuine script that has spoken the minds of thousands. The play has touched on all the sensitivities of the Jordanian society including national unity, an intricate dilemma that has fueled heated debates over the years.
Referring to national unity, Abu Saqer tells his brother that it is "a card that is used by governments". Whenever they "want us to be one family, they make us one and when they want us to fight, they manage to make it happen". The keyword, in his opinion, can be very simple, as a "football game can do it". He refers to the two most prominent football teams in the country, whose supporters are divided mainly across ethnic lines.
Another phrase that is repeated throughout the play is "they sold it", a sentiment that is echoed in the actual protests that demand an end to privatization and reclaiming public assets. The expat is often told that "they sold it" when he asks about places he longs to see.
Only now I understood you: Abu Saqer updates his brother on the changes in Jordan
It also features the "random" reshuffles of governments, described as "a lottery game", in the script. The scenes perfectly describe a flawed mechanism of forming governments, when ministers are selected randomly and posts are distributed as "presents" to avoid upsetting the attendants. Ministers who know very little about the country are also given posts, as is the case when one of the ministers is brought from Switzerland just hours prior to taking the oath.
Only now I understood you: Ministers attend a meeting to announce a reshuffle
After watching the play, I walked out overwhelmed with its sincere depiction of realities on the ground and thought that the "decision-makers" must watch it too to get a glimpse of what the people are actually thinking and feeling. Only a few days ago, news reports said that the
King went to watch the play
, accompanied by the queen and the crown prince. Reports said that "not even one word was eliminated and there was no censorship at all".
In one of the scenes, Abu Saqer is summoned by the security apparatus and when the king was actually present among the audience, he deliberately changed the script and said "I am in front of the King himself!"
Few critics said the play falls short of addressing the "misconduct" of opposition in Jordan and the "irresponsible" acts by some political parties and youth blocs. However, few would disagree on the fact that the play carries a powerful and genuine message on behalf of the "silent majority". It seems the message was delivered directly to the "decision-maker", hoping "he will understand" before it becomes too late.