Countdown to sixth edition of Egypt's Hakawy theatre festival for children

Ati Metwaly , Tuesday 1 Mar 2016

The Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children will bring a variety of theatre performances to Hanager Arts Centre

Opening of the 5th Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children, 2015 (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

This year, the 6th edition of the Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children will take place between 4 and 14 March with performances staged at the Hanager Arts Centre, located at the Cairo Opera House grounds.

Organised by AFCA for Arts and Culture, an institution founded and managed by Mohamed El-Ghawy, Hakawy festival is the only independent event of this scale targeting a young audience. It is also the largest project managed by AFCA.

Throughout numerous performances, past editions of the festival told lots of stories and infused the children’s imagination with valuable art.

From circus and clowns to percussion, classical theatrical settings to breaking the fourth wall, life size puppets to games with imaginary shapes, and from contemporary dance to experiments with paints… International performers taking part in Hakawy have a unique power of grasping the young audience's attention, provoking laughter, enthusiasm, participation and inspiring long-lasting thoughts.

“Our main criteria is always the quality of the performances invited,” El-Ghawy explained to Ahram Online. “All the logistics are tailored around this core principle.”

El-Ghawy’s extensive travels, during which he attends many children’s theatres and plays of best quality, allowed him to set the bar high and make choices as to the festival’s programming. Just like each other year, this time El-Ghawy has invited a number of international troupes. He tops the selection with local Egyptian artists.

“Egyptian artists will be highlighted in Jinan, a show that will fuse classical music performed by Awtar Quartet with storytelling,” El-Ghawy explained.

For their part, Awtar Quartet is known to have already approached children with music in several activities held throughout the past year. Their formula is always engaging for the children of all ages and cultural backgrounds. According to El-Ghawy, Jinan is an artistic development of an encounter which already took place between Awtar and AFCA several weeks ago, when the quartet participated in the celebration of the 70th anniversary of the Swedish children’s book Pippi Longstocking.

“This time, Awtar Quartet will be part of the full mise-en-scene directed by Omar El Moataz Bellah with costumes and many more creative surprises,” El-Ghawy clarified.

The festival will also include performances from countries that were not hosted by Hakawy in previous editions.

As such, Australia will be represented by the Bunk Puppets troupe performing Stick Stones Broken Bones, a play incorporating some circus components. El-Ghawy explained that the performance will present a new approach to shadow theatre, where the puppeteer stands in front of the screen on which shadows are projected and not behind it.

A captivating and internationally acclaimed one-man show will arrive from Switzerland, as El-Ghawy brought Rigolo Swiss Nouveau Cirque performing Sanddorn Balance, “an unimagined, outlandish sculpture of equilibrium,” as the troupe’s website describes it.

Germany will be a returning country, this time represented by Theatre o.N. performing Pling, Little Thing.

The festival also re-invited Velo Theatre, a French troupe that performed in the 2012 edition of Hakawy. This year the troupe will stage a show titled Enveloppes et Debalages (Envelopes and unpacking).

Among the festival’s highlights however is the Theatre of Physical Comedy from the USA coming with Aga Boom circus. The performance is the only returning show to Hakawi in the festival’s history and this is not without reason.

Back in 2013, when Aga Boom was staged at Hanager Theatre, the show was received with unprecedented enthusiasm from the children and many of them recall the engaging clowns until this day.

“This was definitely one of those shows that created a huge impact,” El-Ghawy agrees. “Back in 2013, we brought Aga Boom’s fragment, a 45 minute show. This time we will present it in full, 75 minutes.”

Apart of the theatre performances, this year, the festival will also host an exhibition.

“We thought of shedding light on the young talented Egyptian sculptor Khadija El Dessouky. She will present her work done from wires and will explain the process of the creation,” El-Ghawy comments.

In this artistic atmosphere, where the shows target toddlers, older children as well as whole families, it is expected that following past years’ experience, once again, Hanager Arts Centre will be highly dynamic.

“Unlike previous editions of Hakawy, we launch the festival on Friday [4 March] which is the weekend. It is a new approach to kicking off and will give whole families an opportunity to enjoy the first shows,” El-Ghawy commented.

He also added that in previous years, the festival usually began in the middle of the week, creating strong word of mouth publicity which contributed to large audiences flocking to the theatre on the weekend.

Yet, as per AFCA’s regular practice, El-Ghawy invested a lot of time in promotional activities, as well as reaching out to schools which will bring their students to the performances. This year, for the first time, El-Ghawy made sure that apart from regular schools, students from the Academy of Arts -- conservatory, ballet institute etc -- will also make-up a large segment of the festival’s audience.

While the audiences await this year’s performances and El-Ghawy fine-tunes the final elements of the organisation, he underscores the unprecedented amount of help he received from several parties in making this festival possible.

“From the Egyptian side, I am very grateful to Khaled Galal, who apart from heading the Creativity Centre is also responsible for the cultural production sector within the Ministry of Culture. He has been backing this festival all the way through.” 

El-Ghawy also mentions that as per the festival's regular practice, the low price of the tickets -- LE10 (1.2 USD) -- allows all interested children to attend.

"We also encourage the attendees to buy additional tickets and leave them in the tickets' booth, as then they are distributed to children from the most financially underprivileged communities," El-Ghawy concluded.

For the festival's complete programme click here.

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