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Monday, 09 December 2019

Theatre play After the Night: A tragicomic mirror of Egypt's pains

As we laugh watching After the Night, a performance launched by amateur actors' trained at the Center for Artistic Creativity, we revisit the many troubling issues within Egyptian society

May Sélim, Monday 8 Dec 2014
After the Night
After the Night theatre play (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)
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A Midsummer Night's Dream (2002), Emergency Landing (2004), Black Coffee (2008) and many other are among the most outstanding performances by the Studio Ibdaa (creative studio), housed by the Center for Artistic Creativity that operates under the directorship and creative guidance of theatre director Khaled Galal. The plays usually crown the efforts of the Studio’s students following their two-year course in acting.

It is through these performances, that Galal directs the young actors, juggling between comedy and satire, infusing the plays with the many skits that tackle social themes and toy with the reality of the country. As he moves across many details in each performance, one primary thread connects the different scenes.

In the studio, Galal refers to his favorite and apparently successful recipe when building a performance: he draws from exercises in improvisation which then leads to building the text and dramaturgy.

After the Night

"Studio is usually supported by the Ministry of Culture which offers scholarships to youth. This year however, the actors' studio was paid," Khaled Galal explains to Ahram Online.

He elaborates that “contrary to its usual habit, this time the actors' studio did not hold auditions, and the door was open to all candidates willing to enroll in a six-month internship. We worked with 30 people, 24 of whom have been never involved in any theatrical performance and never stood on stage."

The real challenge of such exercise lay within training young people to become real actors. With this spirit, and focusing on team effort, the studio's most recent performance, titled After the Night ("Baad El-Leil") was launched.

After the Night
After the Night theatre play (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The performance takes place in an undefined location and time with the protagonist continuously being asked "What brought you here?" The answers are just snippets of phrases or keywords launched from either side. The opening scene reveals the crisis of the mad person, fears, details of his life, hence the dramatic nucleus of the play.

The protagonist is continuously accompanied by a ghost embodying his obsessions and delusions. As we follow the character and his phantom, we are presented a series skits that parody Egyptian society.

Galal's black comedy is submerged in disguised buffoonery and intelligent wordplay. The spectator laughs and cries at the same time.

After the Night
After the Night theatre play (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)


One of the sketches evokes religious fatwa (Islamic ruling) issued by sheikhs in the media. The topic is presented in a caricaturised form ridiculing the whole setting and presenting the sheikh as the star of the media. The viewers of the programme in question call the sheikh on air, asking him all kinds of twisted and even illogical questions, inciting the audience's laughter.

In another scene, a man finds his beloved after many years. The significance of this scene lies in portraying how his girlfriend has changed and became absorbed by social networks, losing the ability of human communication.

Sexual harassment, poverty and crime, lie at the base of the performance's humour, though the atmosphere is far from being joyful. We see young women imprisoned on sex-related charges, and as if trapped in their bodies they explain how they are crushed by poverty and a patriarchal society.

After the Night
After the Night theatre play (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

The night's scenography is reduced to a few blocks made of straw that are moved across the stage. The costumes and sets designed by Taghrid Ezzeddine and Nada Abdel-Hamid accentuate the idea of beings in ruins, setting the general mood to this black comedy.

As we laugh at the miseries of human kind and many pains of the Egyptian society, we move towards the final scene where the protagonist is like a baby, pushing his first cries in a traditional ceremony, celebrating the seventh day of the child's birth.

The beginning of life is already ambushed within orders, codes and social regulations. With his psychologist trying to put an end to his obsessions, he catches up with the phantom accompanying him like a shadow. As he searches for a ray of hope, the day comes, after night.

After the Night
After the Night theatre play (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)


The performance is staged daily at the Center for Artistic Creativity, Cairo Opera House grounds, Zamalek, Cairo

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