Tahrir Monologues: A trip back in time to the 18 days that changed Egypt

Rowan El Shimi, Friday 27 May 2011

On Thursday 26 May in the Rawabet Theatre, a group of youths took their audience back to the 18 days of protests in Tahrir through monologues telling the real stories of Egyptians who lived through the experience

Tahrir monologues

“We are trying to find our way back to Tahrir Square,” 25-year-old Sondos Shabayek, one of the event organisers, said. “We wanted to bring back the spirit of Tahrir to the people, to create something where they could return to those 18 days when we were all united and hopeful,” she added.

With real-life stories, beginning with the activity on Facebook, until the moment Mubarak stepped down, the actors had the audience in tears, laughing out loud and covered in goosebumps throughout the show.

Totally unexpected

The room was packed. In fact, so many people wanted to attend that the organisers decided to put on another show an hour and a half after the first. “That was totally unexpected,” Shabayek told Ahram Online.

The stage was simple and informal, with the audience sitting on the floor and the performers standing in front, creating an opportunity for the actors and the audience to interact.

Posters hung from the ceiling bearing the KFC logo, the lions from the Kasr El-Nil Bridge, and a man on a camel, among other iconic images from the revolution. In the background, key video pictures were projected.

There were performers in the middle passing out sandwiches and shouting, “Kentucky, Kentucky,” just as in Tahrir. There was also a man collecting rubbish, while others walked across the stage with the most well-known and witty signs, and a policeman chased a protestor.

Real stories of real people

The story of the 18 days of the revolution was told through real stories of real people who had lived through the experience; whether at home or in Tahrir, or in other governates around Egypt. The organising team collected the stories through social media, as well as trips to Tahrir Square to ask people to contribute their stories.

Some people wanted to perform their own stories; like Sally Zohny who told the story of how people had thought she was Sally the Martyr, and how part of her wished she was.

The story of Radwan, presented by Shehab Abu El Magd, told how Abu El Magd met a 13-year-old young boy called Radwan, who had come to Tahrir to demand the removal of Mubarak.  Radwan went to school during the day and worked at night. He deals drugs to his teacher and wants Mubarak to leave and the regime to fall so he can have a normal childhood.

Then there was the young doctor who was a volunteer in the field hospital and he described the day the thugs attacked the square with camels and horses and he stitched hundreds of people without the benefit of anesthesia.

Another touching story was the girl who did not take part in the revolution. She said she stayed home out of fear until one day she went to join the protesters in Tahrir.

Tears of joy

To illustrate how the world viewed Egyptians, Saif El Asswany told his story. He had applied for immigration to Canada, as he was fed up with Egypt. On the day Mubarak stepped down, he got two phone calls: one from an American friend telling him he was proud to know an Egyptian and the other from an Egyptian living abroad in tears of joy.

The final message of the performance was that the revolution is not over until the system has changed and we clean up the past.  Only then can Egyptians begin a new and brighter future.

The crowd gave the performance a standing ovation and spontaneously started chanting “Hold your head high, you're Egyptian.”

The audience were appreciative and positive. Ali Atef, a 24-year-old anthropologist said: “It brought the 25 January revolution into a whole new light. The feelings I had during the protests came back to me. It was very moving.”

Nasser Abdelhamid, of the Revolution Youth Coalition, also enjoyed the performance. “The conclusion I reached is that we need to continue what we started,” he said. “Not just through protesting, but also by focusing on the upcoming elections, our work and creating awareness.”

Malak El Quessny, who was studying in America during the uprising, remarked that the performance was “intense. I was cut off during the revolution and I was worried about my family and friends. We had no idea what news to believe,” she said. “The performance made me wish I was there even more. It gave me an insight into what it was like. I still don’t understand how people said they were not afraid.”

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