Love's End, performed on 25 and 26 March at the AUC Falaki Theatre as part of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF) theatre programme, is a striking piece about the eternally favoured subject of the arts: Love.
Written and directed by Frenchman Pascal Rambert and translated to Arabic by Shadi El-Housseiny, Love's End (Clôture de l'Amour) is a dual performance presented in two long monologues.
Two lovers, played by Mohamed Hatem and Hadeel Adel, end their love story on stage, with each standing on one end of the stage with a long distance between them.
The distance separating the two represents the emotional path they must walk should they would want to reconcile. This huge distance remains throughout the performance as representation of the impossibility of reunion or healing.
The empty space and the light design by Daniel Jeanneteau emphasise the feeling that a void exists. As the two lovers expel the love from their being, they fill the empty space with their genuine anger.
They empty themselves to resemble the space that gradually becomes filled with the traces of their mutual attacks.
The performance starts with the soliloquy by the male character, who sets the tone for the piece, creating the dramatic environment of a boxing match and forcing the silence of the female other.
It suddenly becomes clear that one has to shout out all the pain without interruption before the other can speak. No response is allowed, the female lover has to take all the blame and accusation till the end, before the two exchange places and positions.
The two characters are portrayed as actors, a brilliant idea that allows the playwright/director to reflect on the craft of acting as an organic part of his analysis of human behaviour.
Analysing human behaviour within a love relationship and after it has ended is also analysing human emotionality, with its bonding and nervous responses.
Rambert succeeds in reading the language of the body, as well as reading and writing the physical expression of anger and aggression.
Hatem excels as a versatile stage actor, reversing the traditional image of screen actors who fail dramatically on stage. He has the voice and body of a theatre performer, one who fills the stage with energy and power and manipulates the attention of each and every spectator. His diction and enunciation are impeccable.
Hatem delivers the lines from his core and fuses together all the organic aspects of acting. He articulates the fluctuations of the soul and the thoughts of obsession that swirl up inside his body.
He projects and channels and flies and hurts. His pain bursts out in anger, and his love bursts in with pain.
Love's End (Photo: Mostafa Abdel Aty / D-CAF)
When Hatem is done with his verbal attack, the children's choir of DEO Cairo School take the stage to sing Sayed Darwish's Telet Ya Mahla Norha.
The dramatic pretext for their entrance is that they have booked the stage for a quick rehearsal. Their song is used as a short intermission for the boxing match, separating the two soliloquies.
The choice of song feels forced, alienated and alienating as it is performed in a French play, capturing Sayed Darwish's legacy within the walls of the American University in Cairo.
Telet Ya Mahla Norha seemed like a translated song, or an untranslatable tradition interrupting the match of anger.
Hadeel Adel exchanges places with Hatem, with the two settling in their new positions while the children exit the stage. Adel's performance takes another tone and power, with the volume of her voice and projection far below Hatem's.
The game looks to be decided from the outset. The male lover will win. The male acting partner will win. The audience wonders if this gap in acting is by design as part of the dynamics of the love story, or a reflection on acting.
There is no answer to these questions as the performance ends abruptly, without giving an equivalent space for Adel's character to develop her part or give her take on the relationship, and without having the opportunity to escalate her performance.
Love's End is also an Egyptian play. The two actors manage to entirely appropriate the story with their performance and with the help of the brilliant translation by Shadi El-Housseiny, who deserves the credit for making the text linguistically relevant and accessible, as if it were originally written in colloquial Egyptian.
Love's End settles the old accounts of love in the most ruthless of languages. It shows the ugly faces of the lovers when they depart, something that we witness on a daily basis in our Egyptian love life.
As Pascal Rambert himself describes it, the performance is "a mental dance somehow, which brings to light the invisible movement of the soul and the nerves on stage."
He has greatly succeeded in translating his vision with the help of his assistant director Shaymaa Shoukry. He succeeded in inserting his own voice into the endless stream of words that Hatem (carrying his own name for the character) delivered. He succeeded in destroying "Love."
Love's End victoriously ends the illusory concept of love.
Love's End (Photo: Mostafa Abdel Aty / D-CAF)
Check the complete schedule of the Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival here.
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