Riding on a Cloud looks at life before and after a tragic event, at the Theatre Centre in Toronto
Riding on a Cloud, playing at The Theatre Centre as part of the Progress Festival, is, simply put, a powerful performance. Writer and Director Rabih Mroué uses cassette recordings, video, and the performance of his brother Yasser Mroué to tell the story of Yasser before and after the accident that took away parts of Yasser’s life.
I was not entirely sure what I was walking into with Riding on a Cloud. Told in Arabic with English surtitles, I was afraid my attention would be drawn from the performance in an attempt to understand what was going on. This was not the case, however, as the simple set of a desk and a screen, make following the story very easy.
With respect to the show itself, I was a bit lost at first and tried to get my footing as to where the story was going and what I was being told. Yasser spends a great deal of time behind the desk, alternating between playing recorded cassettes to coincide with the DVD video presentations.
It was when the theme of “before and after” came up that I felt the performance took hold and I understood exactly what came before in terms and of the show, and where things were going.
Using Yasser’s experience of being shot in the head by a sniper’s bullet during the Lebanese Civil War as its base, Riding on a Cloud explores how we view the meaning of our personal stories, as well as the meaning of major world events. With Yasser’s life, there is the “before” the incident with the sniper and the “after”, but also there is a world before and after World War I, the Holocaust, and 9/11 as is presented as a prequel to Yasser going into detail about his experience.
The part of the performance where the meaning of Yasser’s story is presented is a dialogue between Yasser and Rabih. It is poignant in its simplicity, especially when Yasser questions why his story should be told.
I am glad that the brothers decided to move forward with this production. As with all great art, Riding on a Cloud elicits thought not just about the piece of art itself, but about the world that directly influenced the art and also the world that is indirectly involved.
I say I am glad that the brothers decided to tell this story because as I was leaving the theatre, I was drawn into thoughts of how every person in the world has a unique story. The details might be similar but every single story is as unique as the person to whom it is linked, and it is in the specific differences of every person’s story where commonality can be found.
I have not been shot with a sniper’s bullet as Yasser has, but I can relate to his feelings of confusion and uncertainty exploring an unknown world after a life-changing event. This story also helped me understand a friend’s experience after a traumatic car accident.
When it was revealed that Yasser was initially reluctant about the merits of telling his story, it made me glad that it was told all the more. To know that I almost did not get to experience it, makes me feel even luckier that I did and in my life there is definitely a before Riding on a Cloud and an after.
- Riding on a Cloud is playing until January 16th, 2016 at The Theatre Centre (1115 Queen Street West)
- Shows run Friday January 15th and Saturday January 16th at 7pm
- Tickets are $25 ($20 for Student/Senior/Arts Worker) and are available online or through the box office at (416) 538-0988
Photo provided by the company.