ending head

Mohamed El Khatib finds collective comfort in facing the inevitable fate of us all

A Beautiful Ending

Birmingham Rep Door

***

FOR everyone, death is inevitable. It is a tragedy that everyone faces and must go through within their lifetime. It is the universal language for everyone in the world and Mohamed El Khatib shows exactly that in his self-written performance.

Khatib documents and tells us about the emotional journey from finding out about his mother’s terminal cancer until her death. It is truly a touching subject for any audience member, but with a matter-of-fact delivery and engaging sense of storytelling, he adds creates a powerful sense of empathy and sensitivity.

Khatib’s way of storytelling is incredible, mostly because his performance is completely performed in French. As a non-French speaker, it took some time to adjust to the content and general atmosphere created from the concept, however, there were English surtitles displayed at the back. Once accustomed, Khatib’s native language showed to the mostly English-speaking audience that death is the universal language. Everyone understands the concept of death and the clever concept of language made this point all the clearer.

Zirlib is Khatib’s company, hailing from Orleans in France. In his wonderfully open story, he explains his mother’s origins and shows their interaction as mother and son. Through his account, it is almost as we are there with his family, going through the daily motions of hospital visits and sickness. It allows us to reflect upon our own paths of losing loved ones too.

In Khatib’s sensitive way of recalling his mother’s story as well as his own, he tells us that he understands, and people are bound to have similar experiences. There is a sense of unifying comfort to both the audience and performer through his familiar story, with a unique path.

The set is basic, although his story is enough to leave a dramatic impact. The stage of the intimate studio space is practically bare, save from two tables at either side of the floor. On the right is a small table with wheels that has on it a cam-recorder, paper and a Dictaphone. A television sits on a stand on the left hand of the stage.

The set may have seemed sparse, but the screen and props were contributors to the shows sensitivity and tenderness. Khatib explained that he recorded the events throughout his mother’s sickness and openly displayed them for us to see, including footage from her funeral.

The biggest impact however were conversations in hospital, in which we see him talking to doctors on numerous occasions and are shown the point of which the family are told that their mothers cancer is terminal.

There was a technical error before the end of the play which should not go unnoticed. It could be forgiven due to the nature of Khatib’s studio-style show. Sometimes it felt as if you were listening and offering solace to a friend in their time of need. The apologies were more than accepted from the laid back audience and indeed he took the black out of the television screen in his stride.

At the end of the play, Khatib speaks English, bridging the gap of language and finally coming out of his own world. It is a bold statement as he tells us the story of the events at his mother’s funeral, ending with a sad edge but also not forgetting the fact that death is an open door to a multitude of emotions, of which he left us to explore.

Khatib is touching and leaves us with deeply thought provoking and incredibly personal topic, choosing a subject that is mostly buried internally in our minds, but yet is still an integral part of everyone’s life. Through Khatib’s own story, he reaches out to everyone and gives comfort in that nobody is alone. His piece dares to help those who have experienced grief and most importantly, it is a piece that helps himself.

Elizabeth Halpin

26-01-16 

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