Final week of Egypt's 9th National Theatre Festival: Ahram Online recommends

May Selim, Tuesday 2 Aug 2016

As we enter the final week of the National Theatre Festival, Ahram Online highlights five plays worth attending before the festival ends


Egypt's 9th National Theatre Festival opened on 19 July and runs until 8 August, offering a large assortment of plays on 14 stages.

Check our recommendations for the festival's final week (2-8 August).

Ya Sem

Four dancers wearing red belly dance costumes, stepping slowly, they appear on stage while the tabla player gives the rhythm. Three other characters take their places around them as if listening to stories of old times.

With each rhythm of the tabla, the dancers’ bodies convulse. They put on the anklets and get up to indulge in motion. However, this is not a belly dance show.

Written, directed and choreographed by Sherine Hegazy, the performance makes us hear the cries of the female body and its revolt against all kinds of aggression, harassment and stress.

The dance envelopes the concept of refusal or even rebellion as women stand up to the violence and oppression they experience in society.

Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 August , 7pm
Falaki theatre, Downtown, Cairo

Ya Sem
Ya Sem (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Nehayt El-Laaba (Endgame)

Based on the text by Samuel Beckett and adapted and directed by Youssef Mostafa, the play showcases the absurdity of the world.

The director based the performance on two characters (instead of four), underscoring the interdependent relationship between the blind and unable to stand Hamm and his servant Clov, who is unable to sit.

Staying at home all the time, both Hamm and Clov are isolated from the world, torn between feelings of resentment and pity towards one another.

The performance brings to the fore well balanced acting skills while the lighting helps emphasise the scenography and props.

Wednesday 3 and Thursday 4 August , 7pm
Salah Abdel Sabour Hall, Taliaa Theatre, Attaba, Cairo

Nehayt El-Laaba (Endgame)
Nehayt El-Laaba (Photo: Amir Al-Amir)

Zay Al-Nass (Like People)

In this performance, director Hani Afifi offers a lively and rather touching approach to the short play written by Bertolt Brecht in 1930, The Exception and the Rule.

A humorous apology to injustice is about the rich merchant Karl Longmann, who crosses the desert with a guide and a coolie who carries his luggage.

Desperate to reach his destination for the oil concession, he deprives the impoverished employees of rest. As he starts fearing that the two companions whom he mistreats would turn against him, the merchant decides to let the guide go.

He also shoots the coolie when the latter one offers him a flask of water, which the merchant thought was a stone the coolie wanted to throw at him. In court, the merchant is acquitted.

Not without a dosage of irony, Afifi captures the character’s complexity in a sequence of skits that tell each scene. The scenography creates an additional emphasis on the sarcasm hidden in each of the situations.

Friday 5 and Saturday 6 August at 7pm
Creativity Center, Cairo Opera grounds, Zamalek, Cairo

Zay Al-Nass (Like People)
Zay Al-Nass (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

El-Romady (Gray)

We enter the world of theatre director Abir Ali, who gives her take on George Orwell's novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, adapted by Amal El-Marghani and staged by the independent troupe El-Messaharati.

The famed novel presents the world of Winston Smith, a member of the Outer Party in Oceania, one of Orwell’s fictional super-states, believed to reference the Americas, the British Isles, Iceland, Australia and New Zealand.

Freedom of expression does not exist, all thoughts are monitored, and large banners on the streets remind everyone that "Big Brother is watching you."

On the visual level, Ali paid attention to many details that aim at transposing us to the meticulously monitored universe. She used the screens and cameras that duplicate scenes from life: video projections show war scenes, landscapes, etc. All serves to emphasise the idea of a mechanical life. There is neither a place for thinking nor for questioning the regime in power.

Ali deprives the actors of colours, dressing them in gray uniforms and short black wigs. Black humour betrays painful and paradoxical messages long propagated by Islamists and male society. To ease the tension and resume with everyday images, Ali opts for a simple, everyday dialect.

The songs written and performed by Mohamad Ali, who plays the protagonist (Smith), summarised some ideas and scenes from the novel.

Saturday 6 and Sunday 7 August, at 7pm
Hanager Theatre, Cairo Opera grounds, Zamalek, Cairo

El-Romady (Gray)
El-Romady (Photo: courtesy of director Abir Ali)

Kolena Caligula (We Are All Caligula)

Based on a play by Albert Camus, Kolena Caligula is directed and choreographed Mahmoud Moustaf and staged by the Egyptian Modern Dance Theatre Company.

The performance stresses on a depiction of a struggle within Caligula (played by Ahmed Yehia), one that shifts between the human and the monstrous, power and weakness, good and evil. Through the dance that portrays the dramaturgy, the internal conflict of the legendary Roman tyrant is revealed.

Caligula evokes desires, dreams and ideas about absolute power. Each idea is embodied by a dancer who captures Caligula’s contrasting personality traits.

Friday 5 and Saturday 6 August, at 9pm
El-Gomhouria Theatre, 12 Al-Gomhouria Street, Abdeen, across from Abdin Palace, Downtown, Cairo

Kolena Caligula (We Are All Caligula)
Kolena Caligula (Photo: Bassam Al Zoghby)

Complete programme of the 9th National Theatre Festival:

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