Beirut, “Follyrama”

February 2005

“Follyrama “, variety show at the Lebanon Casino

Beirut. More than 30 years after our previous stay (before Omar Pasha, with our previous black art acts) we return to Beirut. In the meantime, there was the terrible 15-years civil war, with its many victims and destructions, followed by a re-built city center.

We’re looking forward to visit the city and other parts of the country, to meet people and see the current way of life.

The first days are busy with rehearsals and shows. Some days after the “Premiere”, we go with colleagues to visit the ancient city of Byblos. During the visit on Monday 14 February, 2005, an enormous event occurs just a few kilometers away from us. When a disaster happens somewhere in the world, people are (more or less) shocked. But when you are within the vicinity of the assassination of the former Lebanese Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri, when so many people are killed, when a bomb creates an enormous crater, it is another story. We feel involved, the general emotion affects us.

Nevertheless, the Casino management wants to keep the show running. After only a week, audiences come back to the Casino. Protest marches take place every day. For our safety, the management forbids artists to go to the city center. But a week later, late at night, we are all driven to the city. Our hotel and the Casino where we perform are in a Christian area in North Beirut. Everyone is filled with emotion at the site of the crater at the explosion spot. We are shocked by the damage all around and the graves at the nearby square. Even at the middle of the night, a silent crowd is milling around.

When we leave Beirut for Paris, another large demonstration is expected. As we head south by bus to the airport, soldiers are everywhere, tanks are at streets corners, their cannons pointed at the level of our faces… Given the circumstances, we have not seen very much of the city or the surroundings. Also, we have not been able to meet other Lebanese communities other than some members of the Christian community in North Beirut. But we have seen how dramatically the life of a country can change in a few tragic moments.