Hundreds fill Cairo's Hanager theatre on day one of Hakawy children's festival

Ati Metwaly , Tuesday 7 Mar 2017

The Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children runs 7 March through 12 March in Cairo, followed by activities in Alexandria and Luxor

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First day of Hakawy International Art Festival for Children (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

Since the early hours of Tuesday, dozens of children have been running across the Hanager Arts Centre in Cairo, as the performance halls fill with attentive young audiences and more groups arrive at the Opera House grounds in buses.

The children are eager to experience the first day of the 7th Hakawy International Arts Festival for Children, an annual event organised by AFCA for Arts and Culture, and a rare platform bringing plays and theatre workshops to young audiences.

Kicking off 7 March in Cairo and running through 16 March, the festival brings numerous performances and workshops to Cairo, followed by Alexandria and Luxor. The programme enumerates troupes from the US, UK, Germany and Egypt.

Hakawy Festival (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

The theatre is filled with class groups from schools across Cairo, both private and public schools that embrace children from the underprivileged areas.

"We care about reaching out to all children out there," Mohamed El-Ghawy, founder and artistic director of the festival tells Ahram Online, adding that AFCA also conducts outreach to children outside the capital.

"Tomorrow and Thursday, we have buses with children from Minya, then Banha."

El-Ghawy says AFCA works to make sure the performances, including those by international troupes, are well understood by the children.

"In previous editions of Hakawy we hosted shows that, instead of relying purely on language, incorporated movement, mime, dance etc. This allowed all the children to enjoy the show," he says.

"This time, however, we thought we'd address this differently and bring the highest quality shows even if they're performed in a language the children don't have mastery over and provide a creative solution to it." 

With this in mind, AFCA provided translators for performances staged by foreign groups, including those from the US and UK which took part in the festival's first day.

Hakawy Festival (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

However, to render the translation more interesting to young viewers, the Arabic text delivered by Egyptian actors.

In an American play titled The Pigeoning, a recorded voice of an Egyptian narrator walks the children through the performance, while in UK's The Curious Scrapbook of Josephine Bean, the actress translating is present onstage, supporting the performers.

Judging by the high levels interest and enthusiastic comments expressed by children following the shows, the procedure proved very successful.

But the creative translation is not the only novelty in this year's Hakawy. 

A large, moveable planetarium standing in the middle of the Hanager hall attracts the attention of a long queue of children waiting for their turn to enter. 

Hakawy Festival (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

And since science and reading are two main themes at Hakawy this year, "we also brought a performance titled Science Wonders, prepared by the Egyptian actors, in cooperation with the American University in Cairo," El-Ghawy says.

While children attend shows inside Hanager, another group circles a small bus parked in front of the theatre. Provided by Goethe Institut, the Bibliothek Bus is home to a storyteller who weaves tales for the audience, while they take part in games and puzzles in the open air.

Throughout the week, audiences will have the opportunity to see many plays, "including a play from Germany arriving tomorrow," and a few events by Egyptian troupes, topped off with workshops for artists such as a pupeteering workshop. AFCA also presents its own show, targeting a teenage audience.

In its first two days, Hakawy focuses on morning performances, giving an opportunity for schools to bring their classes.

"We will have another, big opening on Friday, for families to attend. This is when yet another audience is expected to arrive with their children," El-Ghawy concludes.

The festival continues in Cairo until 12 March. On 14 March, a German play will be performed in Alexandria's Jesuit Centre and on 16 March in Luxor’s Youth Village El-Tud.

Check the festival's programme here

Hakawy Festival (Photo: Ati Metwaly)

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