With summer on the way, Tunisia’s southern city of Médenine is slowly and timidly emerging from its winter lethargy. Days become longer, evenings slightly more accessible, and events begin to animate public spaces, and, most importantly, outdoor spaces.


The 20th edition of the National Festival of Experimental Theatre of Médenine is the first of these seasonal events. Coinciding with the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, this year’s festival is dedicated to the British poet and playwright. For one week, the stage will be set for plays—of varying degrees of intensity and fidelity—dealing with Shakespearean themes and characters.

Between the 23rd to the 30th of April, the festival will draw the population of Médenine day and night into theaters in- and outside of cities. Indeed, while the main evening’s events take place in the Centre Culturel and the Centre des Arts Dramatiques et Scéniques de Médenine (CAD – which has been responsible for the organisation of the festival since 2011), other activities are performed in less formal spaces as well as in nearby towns.

Though mainly composed of Tunisian artists from different parts of the country, the festival also features a theatre company from Egypt and one from Algeria—a step forward for the organizers of the festival, who aspire to give this event a more and more international scope.

It would be good for us who work in the field to exchange and share experiences with international artists,” says Ali Yahyaoui.

It would be also good for our public to attend, for example, theatre pieces by European artists. To learn something new, to be in contact with different viewpoints. But, little by little, we are growing and advancing.

Mr. Ali is a man with light-coloured clothes and a grey basco hat which casts a shadow over smiling eyes. Each night of the festival after the main shows, Yahyaoui stands at the door of the Centre des Arts waiting for people to join the debate. He moderates the sessions in the tiny hall of the centre, sessions which are never too crowded but which nonetheless never lack animated and intense discussions between spectators, theatre experts and artists. Originally from Tataouine, Mr. Ali is himself playwright and director, and he has worked at CAD Médenine for three years. He welcomes me into his office for a talk.

Médenine is still a rural city. We are still dealing with many important issues concerning rights and equality. What I am interested in, by doing theatre, is the notion of citizenship, which here is still weak.

But this thought coexists with an interest for the folklore and the tradition of his land. The first thing he shows me when I enter in the office is a curious wooden table. It is the “scenario” of his latest work, Sable mouvant, for which employs the technique of sand art. Experimentation in the technique goes hand in hand with research and elaboration on traditional themes. The desert is the protagonist of this performance; Saharan landscape will be shaped by a visual artist from Médenine, and accompanied by Amazigh sounds.