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Clowns of the Revolution: The Malas Twins and Syrian Oppositional Performance

Published online by Cambridge University Press:  31 May 2013


Ahmed and Mohammad Malas, two Syrian actors who have made themselves the unofficial clowns of the revolution, have emerged from a vibrant culture of cyber-activism. They have made use of Facebook and YouTube to circulate work that simultaneously reflects on the possibilities for, and failures of, social media and satellite television to forge a new idea of Syrian identity – one that prominently features active participation in the public sphere. I argue that unlike earlier Syrian plays that employed similar tropes (the interrogation scene as emblematic of the state–citizen relation, the failed actor as symbol of the disheartened citizen), the Malas twins use these tropes to demonstrate the necessity of resistance. Their plays assert that Syrians will persist in resistance because new technologies have provided new options and have transformed Syrian identity.

Copyright © International Federation for Theatre Research 2013 

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1 Ziter, Edward, ‘The Image of the Martyr in Syrian Performance and Web Activism’, TDR, 57, 1, forthcomingGoogle Scholar.

2 Fadi Salem and Racha Mourtada, Arab Social Media Report, 2, 1 (July 2012), pp. 10, 11, available at, retrieved 12 January 2013.

3 SyrianFilm 2012. ‘Breaking News: Secret Camera Shows Bashar al-Assad Web Surfing’, available at×4K_lSYk

5 Neil MacFarquhar, ‘In Protests, Syrians Find the Spark of Creativity’, New York Times, 19 December 2011, available at, retrieved 16 November 2012.

6 ‘The Men Are Vanishing’, New York Times, 14 November 2012, available at, accessed 17 November 2012.

7 Anas Zarar, ‘Ahmed and Mohamed Malas and Their “Magic Square”’, 29 October 2011, Al-Akhbar English, available at, retrieved 30 November 2012.

8 Facebook message, 9 November 2012.

9 Both plays were co-authored by Durayd Laham, who starred as Ghawar, a role he first created for the television programme Ghawar's Pranks (Maqalib Ghawwar). Neither play has been published. My quotes come from the YouTube sites of hiroshi8103jp and kassam15.

10 My analysis is based on an unpublished and unpaginated manuscript provided by the authors. When commenting on performance choices I refer to the Moscow performance of 28 August 2011 posted on YouTube at, accessed 29 November 2012.

11 Salamandra, Christa, ‘Spotlight on the Bashar al-Asad Era: The Television Drama Outpouring’, Middle East Critique, 20, 2 (2011), p. 160.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

13 The government's relentless lionization of the party is evident in a school curriculum that requires students to take a course on ‘nationalism’ at primary and secondary levels – courses whose required texts are little more than hagiographies of the party. See, for example, al-Tarbiyah al-wataniyah al-ishtirakiyah, al-thani al-thanawi, al-‘amm wa-al-mihni wa-al-shar‘i (Damascus: Ministry of Education, 1999); al-Tarbiyah al-qawmiyah al-ishtirakiyah, al-thalith al-thanawi, al-`amm wa-al-mihni wa-al-shar`i (Damascus: Ministry of Education, 1996).