Last Thursday, Al-Warsha theatre troupe opened its doors for audiences after months of being shut down due to COVID-19.
Being Egypt’s first independent theatre troupe that took to the stage over 30 years ago, the audience were delighted to learn that the door of Al-Warsha is wide open, once again, every Thursday. "A Convivial Hour" is the name of the scheduled weekly performance they aim to host till the end of the year.
Last Thursday’s performance, they opened with a real treat, a Tahtib performance. Tahtib is a traditional folk dance and martial art that involves wooden sticks and dates back to the days of ancient Egypt. Images on temple walls that depict the game and its rules were recently listed in UNESCO’s intangible heritage list in 2017.
Since the early nineties, Al-Warsha has supported the Medhat Fawzy centre for stick arts in Mallawi, Minya and they have been roaming the world with this rich cultural practice ever since. They even teach young boys the dance so that it may be passed down from one generation to the next.
After the grand opening, Sufi chants were sung, Followed by a rare maqama (form of rhymed story) of vernacular poetry pillar Beiram El Tounsi that was told by a very talented story teller. Surfing amidst the music hall repertoire of the post 1919 revolution in Egypt where society and culture “tended to be liberated from traditions,” as explained by founder of El-Warsha Hassan El-Geretly.
Sayed Darwish’s famous Hiz El-Helal Ya Sayed, ("Swing the Crescent Sayed") and Ya Nas Ana Mot fi Hobi ("Oh People I Died Out of Love"), and a love song titled "I am What You Want Me to Be" were sung by Shorouk Zahran in her first ever performance. Her voice and style were enchanting, resembling the singers of that era.
Om Kalthoum's song Qal eih helef ma yekalemnish (He Swore He Won't Talk To Me) performed by masterfully by Omneya Zahran. Another 1929ies song Matkhafshi alia (Don’t Worry About Me), composed by Zakaria Ahmed during the liberal days of the twenties was sung by Zahraa Ahmed.
Next came, Al-Hob Bahdala ("Love is a Rollercoaster") sung by Bahaa Tolba on his own. The song was previously a duet sang by the timeless monologists and artists Shokoko and Ismail Yassin.
Then, Al-Warsha's famous duo Mido Gamal and Dalia El-Gendy took to the stage to perform Ya Salam Ala Hobi We Hobak ("How great our love is") with the same spirit and humour that music icons Shadia and Farid El-Atrash brought to the performace in the film Enta Habibi ("You are my Lover"). The movie was directed by Youssef Chahine and depicted a satirical love song between a couple who could barely stand each other.
The evening ended with a story originally written by Tawfiq El-Hakim, retold by Abanoub Zakaria with much passion and colour, depicting the life of wedding bands in the twenties and how society perceived them.
Al-warsha’s next performance is scheduled Thursday October 8, at the premises of Al-warsha 17 Sherif Street Downtown at 8 pm.