An Appreciation of Majdi Bou-Matar

by Lynn on July 1, 2022

in The Passionate Playgoer

Majdi Bou-Matar

MT SPACE in Kitchener, Ontario sent this heartbreaking message on Facebook regarding the unexpected passing of Majdi Bou-Matar, a visionary theatre creator, maker, director, leader and theatre ‘wunderkind’.

“It saddens us deeply to share that our beloved friend, colleague, and founder of MT Space, Majdi Bou-Matar, passed away unexpectedly on Tuesday (June 18, 2022) evening. We are devastated by this news and will be taking time and space to move through this grieving process together at MT Space.

Majdi touched a lot of lives and was truly a trailblazer in our industry—nationally and internationally…We will do everything we can to continue his legacy as he gave us a glimpse into what an inclusive future could look like.

There is much more to say about Majdi, his enormous contribution to our communities, and what we have all lost. We will issue a formal tribute when the shock of his passing allows.”

I was introduced to Majdi Bou-Matar’s wonderful work in April 2011, when Andy McKim, then the Artistic Director of Theatre Passe Muraille, programmed a production of The Last 15 Seconds from MT Space in Kitchener, in the Backspace of TPM. Andy has a keen sense of seeing talent in people. He recognized in so many people a strong, compelling voice to tell a different story, that needed to be told. Because of Andy those of us hungry to hear all sorts of different theatre stories were introduced to Anusree Roy with her stories of life in India and Majdi Bou-Matar with stories from his beloved Lebanon and other parts of the Middle East, just to name two of many.

Seeing The Last 15 Seconds was like an explosion of creativity.  At the centre of that creativity was Madji Bou-Matar. Here is part of my Slotkinletter review of that production from April 8, 2011


by LYNN on APRIL 8, 2011

Trevor Copp, Pam Patel, Anne-Marie Donovan

At Theatre Passe Muraille Mainspace. Co-created by Majdi Bou-Matar, Trevor Copp, Anne-Marie Donovan, Nada Homsi, Gary Kirkham, Pam Patel and Alan K. Sapp. Directed by Majdi Bou-Matar. Set by Sheree Tams and William Chesney. Costumes by Sheree Tams. Lighting by Jennifer Jimenez. Music by Nick Storring. Starring: Trevor Copp, Anne-Marie Donovan, Nada Homsi, Pam Patel and Alan K. Sapp.

Produced by The MT Space (Kitchener-Waterloo) in association with Theatre Passe Muraille.

On November 9, 2005 Rawad Jassem Mohammed Abed walked into a wedding celebration in a hotel in Amman, Jordan and detonated the explosives around his waist. Among the people he killed besides himself, were the celebrated Syrian film director Mustapha Akkad and his daughter Rima, the bride at this celebration.

The Last 15 Seconds details who these people were; their histories; their hopes, dreams and frustrations. It also creates an imagined conversation after the fact, between Mustapha Akkad and Rawad Abed.

Mustapha always wanted to be a film director when growing up in Syria. His father wanted him to be a doctor. But he supported his son’s wish and gave him $200 when Mustapha left for America to study film and begin his career. To fund his passion for making films celebrating his people and their history, Mustapha produced the Halloween series of horror-slasher movies.

Rawad Abed grew up in a family of women in Iraq. On the day he was born Rawad’s father was killed in one of the four wars the boy would experience by the time he was 15. His childhood friends died in various killings, his family’s neighbours perished too. Hate for occupying forces and frustration at the situation festered in Rawad, until he decided to do what he could to lash out; he and his bride would be suicide bombers and die together in that Jordanian hotel. Only his wife couldn’t bring herself to do it at the last minute.

The Last 15 Seconds is a harrowing, gut-wrenching story to be sure, but it is told with such artful elegance and vivid imagination by MT Space Theatre, that it is both compelling and incredibly moving. Using movement, dance, video projections, vocals, acting, and text, it shows us so many aspects of these stories and none of them is a black and white condemnation.

In one conversation between Mustapha and Rawad, Mustapha directs Rawad as if in a film, to explain his position as a martyr. Time and time again, Mustapha urges Rawad to be truthful, passionate and clear.

In another scene, Rawad explains his actions because he wanted to be a hero like Salahadeen, one of the most celebrated figures in Muslim history. Mustapha challenges him by saying that his suicide bombing proved nothing and helped nobody. And that Mustapha’s next film, had he lived, would be a celebration of Salahadeen’s life.

Trevor Copp as Rawad and Alan K. Sapp as Mustafa are very fine. The cast of five as a whole is terrific.

The images created by director Majdi Bou-Matar and his company are breathtaking. Rawad, first starring at Mustapha sitting at a table, and then ripping at his clothes to detonate the explosives, segues into a projection on the back wall of the wedding banquet with many tables of celebrants, that then dissolves into chaos, noise and falling bodies.

Piles of clothes that are dropped on the floor represent either bodies of the dead or their clothes. Women frantically pick through the piles looking for their loved ones often results in the terrible discovery. Very moving.

Mustapha’s mother, stroking his face and chest, as she says good-by to him as he goes to American, wishing him to make a difference by thinking with his head and heart, is delicate and so effective. Image after image takes a terrible thing, creates art, and makes us look and understand.

The women play members of both Rawad’s and Mustapha’s family’s with a simple change of costume. In the end both family’s are shattered by the suicide bombing and we grieve for all of them without hesitation.

This is theatre at its heart-squeezing, compelling best and guiding the vivid creation is Majdi Bou-Matar. Theatre Passe Muraille under Andy McKim, in its quiet, tenacious way is producing this important kind of theatre as a matter of course.”

I looked out for Majdi’s work after that. Here are some of the reviews of the productions I was lucky to see:


(SummerWorks, Aug. 2018 at the Theatre Centre).

Written and performed by Ahmad Meree—(another brilliant discovery, all because of Majdi Bou-Matar)

Directed by Majdi Bou-Matar

Set by Majdi Bou-Matar

Sound by Colin Labadie

Original music by Colin Labadie.

Done in Arabic with English surtitles.

Jaber is a young Syrian man spending his first New Year’s Eve in Canada. He’s cold.  He thinks back to the previous year’s New Year’s in Syria where he was with his family, mindful of the possibility of bombs dropping or soldiers invading their home at any moment.

In the safety of Canada he sits down to a meal of pizza and coke and talks to his parents and his young brother. They are cleverly depicted: his mother is a stand-up fan with a large scarf around the curve of the fan and wrapped around the neck of the fan. His father is a jacket neatly hanging on a coat tree and his brother is a round gas tank with a red hockey sweater over it.

Jaber talks to his parents and brother in turn with tenderness, humour and a loving wistfulness. The firecrackers that go off to bring in the New Year here have a chilling resonance for Jaber as they also sound like bombs in his native Syria.

We see a family that loves each other and how Jaber tries to maintain that love and connection. Then the reality of the situation sinks in. We cannot hear these stories  enough of survival, determination and the horrors that refugees and immigrants have endured.

This piece of work is stunning in every single way—from the gripping writing to the inventive direction of Majdi Bou-Matar to the arresting acting of Ahmed Meree (who also wrote it). I would travel anywhere to see theatre this good. Fortunately the Theatre Centre is closer.”


(Nov. 19, 2019, at Streetcar Crowsnest.)

“The production is directed by the hugely gifted Majdi Bou-Matar. While Bou-Matar came to Canada (he lives in Kitchener) from his native Lebanon his heart and mind are certainly focused on the revolution that is happening across Lebanon now. It certainly informs this production.  Bou-Matar brings a vivid sense of imagery to his productions and there is that as well as a muscularity and sensitivity in every aspect of Besbouss-Autopsy of a Revolt.

I’m grateful that Majdi Bou-Matar is back in Toronto directing—we see too little of his work here. I first saw his breathtaking production of The Last 15 Seconds at the Backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille. Then at Summerworks a year ago he directed Adrenaline by Ahmed Maree.  Both are harrowing stories of immigrants and people dealing with horrific events in their home countries. Bou-Matar will be returning to Toronto with two shows: Suitcase and Adrenaline in the new yearDon’t miss them.

Comment. Majdi Bou-Matar creates theatre in Kitchener. For about 10 years he curated the IMPACT Festival of international productions in Kitchener. I saw several stunning productions of this past festival from Tunisia, Ecuador, Iran, Six Nations from Toronto (a devastating piece called The Mush Hole about residential schools) and Montreal. The breadth and quality of the productions programmed are astonishing. Majdi Bou-Matar’s determination, artistry and vision are impressive and much needed. Why isn’t Majdi Bou-Matar in Toronto at Harbourfront, resurrecting the moribund World Stage Festival?”

For my annual TOOTSIE AWARDS for excellence, I awarded Madji Bou-Matar:

”A Man of Many Talents Award (Dec. 2019—Tootsie Award)

Majdi Bou-Matar

Majdi Bou-Matar is a director-artistic director, curator, creator of art, originally from Lebanon but now relocated to Kitchener, Ont. where he ran MT Space. His productions are arresting in their vision with a deep sense of story-telling. I first saw his production of The Last 15 Seconds in the Backspace of Theatre Passe Muraille (thank you Andy McKim). Jaw-dropping. I looked out for his work ever since. For the past 10 years he was the Founder and Artistic Director of the IMPACT Festival that brought a diverse roster of plays and productions from the Middle East, across Canada and South America to Kitchener. I finally was able to see many of those productions. Again, jaw-dropping in their impact. He is slowly doing more work in Toronto.”

The loss to the theatre of this gifted man is incalculable. Majdi Bou-Matar told stories we needed to hear and experience. He took us into another world to understand the harrowing world of the immigrant, the refugee, people who were displaced and aching at leaving their homeland. He did it in a graceful, gripping, muscular way that was also embracing. His vivid images will never leave my memory.

Is loss is devastating.

Lynn Slotkin

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