Week 1 of Egypt's 9th National Theatre Festival: Ahram Online recommends

May Selim, Wednesday 20 Jul 2016

With 14 stages, 37 plays in the competition and several outside it, the National Theatre Festival's programme can be overwhelming. Ahram Online highlights five plays from the first week, 20-26 July

festival week 1

The festival runs between 19 July and 8 August.

Check our recommended plays from the festival's first week and scroll down for the complete programme (in Arabic).

Al Zombie Wa Al Khataya Al Ashra (Zombie And The Ten Sins)

The play is written and directed by Tarek El Deweri who was inspired by three literary works: George Orwell’s novel 1984, Ray Bradbury’s novel Fahrenheit 451 and the poems by the Lebanese Georges Saadeh. The play is a result of an extensive writing workshop with Nashwa Muharram, a professor of philosophy at Ain Shams University.

In a mechanical world, man loses his freedom and becomes creature without a name, an anonymous being that plays a specific or rather mechanical role in the well drawn system. El Deweri has created a play rich connotation.

We are presented the scenography of Mohamed Abul-Seoud and lights designed by Bakr Al-Sherif, where the mechanical world is filled with the surveillance monitors. The choreography by Ibrahim Abdou and Nirmeen Habib only emphasises the idea of automated movements.

Wednesday 20 and Thursday 21 July at 9pm
Hanager theatre, Cairo Opera House grounds, Zamalek, Cairo

Al Zombie Wa Al Khataya Al Ashra
Al Zombie Wa Al Khataya Al Ashra -- Zombie And The Ten Sins (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Gamila (Beautiful)

Inspired by the main plot of Shakespeare's comedy The Taming of the Shrew, the theater director Marwa Radwan has created an impressive performance with cast of the Youth Theatre.

The play tells the story of Gamila, a strong woman who rejects any man’s approaches. Her younger sister is in love with a neighbour, but she cannot even think about marriage since the father insists that the older daughter should get married first. The neighbor asks a friend to help him. He asks his friend, a true Don Juan, to challenge Gamila and make her fall in love with him.

The play is filled with music, as Radwan offers a full hour of joy to the audience. Yet it is also one hour where everything is well studied and thought of. At the beginning, the performance incorporates a very popular music genre, electro-shaabi. Later on, we are offered songs composed by Tareq Ahmad Yehia, among other tunes weaved into the play. This is topped with the choreography by Monadel Antar who allows the actors to showcase their dance skills with brio.

Wednesday 20 and Thrusday 21 July at 7pm
El Ghad theatre, El-Nil Street, next to Balon Theatre, El-Agouza, Giza 

Gamila (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

El- Basaseen (The Watchmen)

Based on Gamal El-Ghitani’s masterpiece, Zayni Barakat, Basaseen is a contemporary dance performance staged by the Egyptian Modern Dance Company, directed and choreographed by Monadel Antar.

The plot takes us back to the Mamluk dynasty in the 16th century, and a minister who pretends to be a devoted follower of the religion only to exercise despotic power over the population. Together with Shehab Bin Radi, minister of security, both characters rely on night watchmen to spy on the people. The play touches on topics related to government and the governed, men and women, and good and evil.

"El-Ghitani’s novel is a base for me to tackle several issues of today’s world. What was on the minds of those watchmen? How did they manage to create influence?” Antar asks when commenting on his work.
"I infused the story with a more abstract dimension, expressed through the choreography. It is dance that allowed me to raise many questions,” he adds.

As Antar tells many stories through dance, he begins with a trio, which allows him to paint the rivalry between the two ministers and introduce their relationship with the concubine, Wasilla. The dances follow thereafter, reflecting the broader relationship between the ruler and the ruled, between man and woman, good and evil, and so on. In the performance, we see rivalry, complicity, passion and rejection, and as the show advances, the choreography becomes more complex.

Thursday 21 and Friday 22 July at 9pm
Al-Gomhoriya Theatre, 12 Al-Gomhouria Street, Abdeen, across from Abdin Palace, Downtown, Cairo

El- Basaseen (The Watchmen)
El- Basaseen -- The Watchmen (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Helm Leilat Seif (A Midsummer Night's Dream)

This famed Shakespearean comedy is directed by Mohamed Meky and produced by the Bibliotheca Alexandrina.

It is a complex story with two main couples in love: Lysander et Hermia on the one hand and Demetrius et Helena on the other hand. Hermia wants to marry Lysander, but her father, Egeus, intends to give her hand to Demetrius, with whom Helena is in love. Hermia and Lysander flee into the forest, pursued by Demetrius who is followed by Helena. The plot thickens reaching numerous confusions between the characters. 

The director breaks the classical theatre form; he uses the Egyptian dialect and songs, reaching an interesting show filled with music.

Monday 25 and Tuesday 26 at 9pm
Gomhouriya Theatre, 12 Al-Gomhouria Street, Abdeen, across from Abdin Palace, Downtown Cairo

A Midsummer Night
Helm Leilat Seif -- A Midsummer Night's Dream (Photo: MMAR)

El-Fanar (The Lighthouse)

Directed by Maher Mahmoud, and based on J. L. Galloway's The Dark, El-Fanar is yet another entry by the Youth Theatre.

The play tells the story of two men working in a lighthouse, almost trapped inside it for many months. Their loneliness and the isolation from the real world, creates a unique relationship between the two: at times they quarrel viciously, at other times they become very close to one another.

It is a game of music and singing, where the world of schizophrenia is captured in Yehia Sobeih’s dark scenography.

Saturday 23 and Sunday 24 July at 7pm
Zaki Toleimat stage, El-Talia Theatre, Attaba Square, Downtown, Cairo

Al Fanar
El-Fanar -- The Lighthouse (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Complete programme of the 9th National Theatre Festival:

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