Located in the narrow street, Khalig Al-Khour, connecting Ramses and Emad Eddin street in Cairo's downtown, one of the old buildings characterising the neighbourhood has witnessed an intriguing facelift. A closer look reveals Malak Theatre, an edifice that for years was left to its fate.
Named after Egyptian singer Malak Mohamed (1902-1983), the newly restored building opened its doors to the sound of drums and music. On Sunday 15 June, the opening event was attended by officials from the Ministry of Culture, Theatre Production sector, actors and artists.
“In 1983, shortly after passing away of Malak Mohamed, the theatre's founder, the building was taken under the umbrella of the Ministry of Culture. Later on, the edifice was transferred to the Ministry of Investment. Nevertheless, during all this time, between 1983 and 2009, the theatre's doors never opened with authorities pointing to the deteriorated state of the building. And though Ashraf Zaki, former head of the Theatre Department, rented the stage once, most of the time the location was the prey of the ministerial officials," Ahmad El-Sayed, the director of the theatre since August 2013, revealed to Ahram Online.
Having researched several state agencies (municipalities, Civil Coordination Agency, ministry of culture and investment), El-Sayed was able to find the documents which allowed him to restore the theatre, an initiative that finally was translated into action in March 2014. The task was not easy since the building was already listed as part of the architectural heritage of Khedivial Cairo.
Al-Sayed has extensive plans for activities at the newly restored location.
He aims to exert special effort to reach audiences aged 12-19. El-Sayed explains that "this is the age where you can shape students and introduce them to art."
"I would like them [young audiences] to discover theatre," he adds. "We can encourage them through offering membership cards, and creating subscriptions of all kinds that would sometimes allow them to attend performances for free."
Without limiting activities to one particular genre, the theatre will stage comedy, dance, mime performances, and musicals among others. "The idea is to offer a wide range of theatrical forms and to revive genres that are not sufficiently known [to Egyptian audiences] or forgotten. I am also looking forward to cooperating with any artist who wishes to propose something innovative or hold a workshop," the director explains.
Accordingly, El-Sayed promised that the theatre would not be limited to plays, and it will also host series of series of workshops in a variety of specialisations.
Technical workshops are not new to El-Sayed. Over the past months he has initiated many workshops – which took place between November 2013 and February 2014 – that targeted the various aspects of theatre, among them a playwriting workshop led by Mohsen El-Marghani and Eissa Gamal, scenography workshop with Hazem Shebl, sound engineering with Mahmoud Abdel-Latif, and light engineering with Amr Abdallah.
Further workshops will aim at developing the already working technicians, giving them a chance to become masters of the craft. "The sound and light technicians, even those responsible for changing the scenography – all technicians play an important role in theatre," El-Sayed elaborated, giving hope that Malak Theatre will be a dynamic gem on the theatrical scene in Egypt.