"The Emigrants," staged at BZU, explores themes of exile and alienation

“XX and AA sit at a table in their basement to celebrate New Year’s Eve - an annual recurrence. Despite the celebratory atmosphere, conflict and dispute are a mainstay of their relationship.”

With this exposition, “The Emigrants” introduced Birzeit University students to these two characters and their journeys, which intertwine and intersect, reaching a destination of misery an exile.

XX and AA are two characters whose paths conflate despite their personalities, outlooks, and origins which could never be more different. One is an intellectual who fled his country for fear of political persecution. The other is a laborer who emigrated from his country in search of wealth and riches. The events portrayed in the play are annual, regular occurrences which play out with mechanical frequency.

The play, produced by Yes Theatre and directed by Ehad Zyadi, was inspired by Polish author Slawomir Mrozek's "The Emigrants.” Mohammad and Titi and Rai’d Shayoukhi reprise their roles as XX and AA, two characters which take part in a tense, charged argument on all manners of life between a person whose only goal is to return to his country a rich man, and an intellectual who spends his days contemplating what’s best for the people.

A constant reminder of the differences between their country of origin and their current place of residence constitutes one of the main themes of the play. The two characters regularly compare the two countries and criticize the long working hours, their materialistic outlooks, the lack of social connections, and the friction between their fear and love for their respective countries. 

Another theme that the play emphasizes is that of freedom. The play defines and redefines freedom through the meanings that each character attaches to freedom, with XX saying that he only knows one kind of freedom, that which comes on a Sunday weekend.