This year, we had over 200 freshmen from the Singapore Management University (SMU) Arts Camp orientation attend The O.P.E.N. The aim was to share with the students the different approaches to art making and art experiences available during the festival. They attended three events - Perhat Khaliq & Qetiq; Newsha Tavakolian’s I Know Why The Rebel Sings; and Rabih Mroué's Riding On A Cloud.
Riding On A Cloud was a special performance. It tells a story of director Rabih Mroué’s brother Yasser, who at 17 was maimed by a sniper's bullet that pierced his skull. It caused partial paralysis and aphasia – the loss of the ability to understand and express speech. It was this seminal moment that gave birth to Riding On A Cloud – a mixed-media theatre piece that blurs the line between fact and fiction, reality and imagination, truth and subjective perspective, especially with Yasser himself at the centre as the sole performer.
If I could describe the performance, I would say that was unique and it managed to tell us his story well. I thought that the performance managed to show how tragic and unforgiving war can be and how peace is often taken for granted.
– Jia En, Year 1, Freshman
Riding On A Cloud got me to think of the impacts of war and conflict on individuals and families, where we rarely think about in this peaceful time and age. The play was especially impactful as the director intrigues the audience from the start. Why is Yasser studying kindergarten at age 21? Why could he not recognise an item from pictures? Rabih's brilliance in slowly unveiling the answers to these questions and the mixture of live performance with recordings, successfully evoked the strong emotions in me. It was a truly a thought-provoking and enjoyable performance. I will definitely recommend it to my friends.
– Wei Lin, Year 1 Freshman
This quiet piece packs a heavy punch. We see Yasser as a victim in a political struggle that riveted the world for decades, Yasser as an actor in a fictionalised narrative, Yasser as a character invented by Mroué’s imagination, Yasser as victor in his struggle with language and meaning. Throughout it all, we reflect on our ability to know the world the way we do, in the safety and comfort of our lives.