New theatre festival emerges on Alexandria scene

Ati Metwaly , Thursday 30 Apr 2015

The first edition of the Alexandria International Festival for Contemporary Theatre will kick off 2 May at the Bibliotheca Alexandrina, reviving theatrical practices that bridge Egypt and the international scene

Mokhallad Rasem
Waiting and Body Revolution, Mokhallad Rasem, Belgium/Iraq (Photo: courtesy of Bibliotheca Alexandrina)

Alexandria International Festival for Contemporary Theatre (AIFCT), which will run 2-7 May in Alexandria, is a newcomer to Egypt's culture scene.

Organised by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina's Arts Centre (BA), and in its first edition, the Alexandria International Festival for Contemporary Theatre will bring plays by troupes from Egypt, Tunisia and a number of European countries. 

The festival aims at reviving theatre practices at the BA and providing a platform for Egyptian audiences to explore contemporary art from Egypt and the international scene.

"Many years ago, the BA held the annual Creative Forum for Independent Theatre Groups, but it was stopped in 2010," Saeed Kabeel, theatre programmer at the BA Arts Centre, told Ahram Online, adding that the forum hosted independent troupes from Europe and the Mediterranean basin.

"The AIFCT opens its doors to all independent and state theatre troupes from all across the world," Kabeel continued.

"Through probing theatrical practices in Egypt and the world, we will be able to see how theatre responds to today's world. The festival looks to theatre as an art form that is surrounded by competition coming from life filled with technology and many other new art forms," Kabeel explained, saying that today theatre makers can use these challenges in their creative practices.

"The festival will be an exploration and a journey through many theatre languages and techniques, even if through a relatively small number of troupes that participate in the AIFCT's first edition."

According to Kabeel, though the call for submissions was released late, the BA Arts Centre received over 35 applications from theatre troupes in Egypt and over 75 from international troupes.

"This is the first edition and we had quite limited capacity. Hence we had to accept a small number of applicants. The festival runs for five days. The Bibliotheca has three stages — the Great Hall, Small Hall and Plaza (the latter being an open air location, providing different technical facilities that do not respond to the requirements of all theatre troupes). We will work on expanding the festival in upcoming editons."

Kabeel revealed that unfortunately three troupes — from Arab countries — that were booked in the preliminary programme had to withdraw with their apologies and that it was too late to replace them with other plays.

"We hoped to host two very interesting theatre plays, one from Iraq, another from Lebanon but including Lebanese and Syrian artists. Unfortunately, to the last moment, those troupes did not receive Egyptian security clearance. As for the theatre troupe from Bahrain, they had to apologise due to some operational delays they experienced with their Ministry of Culture," Kabeel clarified.

The festival, however, will host the play 'Waiting and Body Revolution' directed by Mokhallad Rasem from Iraq. The play consists of an all-Belgian cast. However, the director, who resides in Belgium on an Iraqi passport, did not receive clearance until now and might not be able to join the troupe.

Egypt will be represented by two troupes: the Teatro Independent Theatre that will stage 'No Exit' and the Creation Groupe presenting 'Oh Carmela.'

Another Arab country, Tunisia, will perform a play titled 'Al-Makena.' This will be topped with a number of international troupes, from the United Kingdom, France, Portugal, Macedonia and Serbia.

"We are very excited about the festival's first edition. It is also an important learning process that will be developed and presented on a bigger scale in coming editions," Kabeel concluded, adding that the call for submissions for AIFCT 2016 will be announced in July.

Check the festival's programme here

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