Playing Zefzaf : Birds of night, by DABATEATR

Birds of Night*. Think of it. Remember, « The » is absent. « Night » is indefinite, in the realms of the unknown, the dangerous. « The » night is a hint more familiar. Nuances do matter. Now Imagine it .You picture an owl thrusting it’s claws into some poor rodent, a crow cawing some imminent tragedy, a red eyed pigeon from some horror movie. Yet these are birds, frail creatures with weak feathers and small beaks. The night soiled them, in you eyes. An animal cannot be evil, for it does not will. A human cannot, ab ovo, be evil, for character is not innate. We evolve to be evil, through specific perspectives : what is evil here is good, even salutary, elsewhere. Can evil be pure (in a chemical-like sense) ? Can good be absolute ? Are those extremes possible to Man ? Or are we but shades of gray (don’t go there), a mixture of black and white, blended in by  time and circumstance. Honore de Balzac once said : « If you are to judge a man, you must know his secret thoughts, sorrows, and feelings; to know merely the outward events of a man’s life would only serve to make a chronological table — a fool’s notion of history ».

In a similar spirit, Birds of Night, a play inspired from the novel  »The rooster’s egg » by late Mohamed Zefzaf, starts by exploring the characters in their intimacy, sometimes their homes, where all the masks are dropped and reality appears, unmarred by pride and social convenience. Someone has to advocate for the devil, otherwise it would be tyranny. When in Morocco, supposedly a conservative society, the scope of devilishness is broadened, including the drunkard and the indecently clothed. Jaouad Essounani, the stage director tries, albeit with a hint of legitimate treason, to revive Zefzaf’s chef d’oeuvre through theater, shedding light on a portion of society often judged and stigmatized.  Light is warmth they need, light is understanding they seldom get, light is love. As for treason, it’s unavoidable and, dare I say, much appreciated. Creation, past the tip of the painter’s brush, of the writer’s pen, is the property of the world. It is what we bring to it. What Jaouad brought is a different setting, a different understanding, a richness that surpasses the mere theatral reproduction. Characters, initially devoid of depth, are whole independant theatral projects to be, in a spirit of fielty to DABATEATR*’s motto: theater as a « continuous laboratory » and the spectator as an « ingredient of the evolution ». The play is yet to evolve, nurtured by the input of the spectator, usually invited to express opinions and debate after the performance. More than a passive recipient, he becomes a part of the creative process.


The pimp, the drunkard, the prostitute, the gigolo, and the beggar, are all featured. Their stories are told, amongst other’s, through the acting of the talented Monssef, Jamila, Bouchra, and  Beatriz, to mention only these. Notwithstanding the difference of the backgrounds and stories, the intimacies converge to a single essence: a fragile shred of humanity longing for love,whose life was shaped by harshness and adversity: bad initial conditions or unkind spins of fortune. Glimpses of shattered beauty are revealed : there lies a soul, with it’s lot of kindness behind the sinful curtain. The frugal decor, the melancholic ambience contrast with the violence of fates, depicting the silent resignation of the personae and the gloominess of their existence. The strength of the emotions communicated through the play and the mastery of the actors’ performances couldn’t fail to bring about compassion and understanding to the public, which expressed his awe through an extensive clapping session at the end.

More than a play, Birds of night is a message, an ode to humanization and empathy towards the other, a crusade against those prone to facile judgment and stigma, a raw call of love from the human to his kin. God knows we need that in these dark times

*Original title: Oiseaux de nuit

DABATEATR* (literally: theater now) : describes itself as a multidisciplinary art company, created in 2004 by Jaouad Essounani, initiated by a group of artists from diverse geographic and disciplinar horizons, then founded by a collectivity of people animated by passion for art and knowledge, aiming to promote a citizen action that is cultural, artistic and free.

*Multiple representations of Birds of Night are scheduled over the course of this year, in the Bahnini theater where DABATEATR was given residency by the Ministry of Culture for now.
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