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D-CAF festival offers alternative art

The D-CAF festival in downtown Cairo, a multidisciplinary event, explores urban spaces

Menha El-Batraoui, Friday 6 Apr 2012
photo by Bassam El Zoghby

The two programmes published by the first Downtown Festival for Contemporary Theatre cover the performing arts and music. Each carries a drawing by the graffiti artist Ganzir on the covers. In the first, an Oriental coffee pot pours artists into a glass; in the other, there are musical instruments.

The performing arts programme includes two sections: performances and theatre; and urban visions. The latter involves Egyptian and foreign troupes performing in the Egyptian Stock Market corridor off El Sherefien Street.
On Friday 30 March, between 2pm and 4pm, five troupes adapted their performances to the space. Some spent time integrating their work into the space while others tried to establish a connection with the audience.

Apparement, ce qui ne ce voit pas (Apparently, what is not seen) by the French troupe Ex Nihilo — featuring one man and two women — utilised and exploited the space, installing within it all the objects found in the urban context: lampposts, marble walls, chain barriers, metal roller shutters on stores gates… to a background of seemingly neutral music. The artists are separated, each preoccupied with creating their own world; they meet and part, never connecting with the public, as if to keep a distance like that created by the orchestra pit.

Entity by Nadine Emil from Egypt proves far more interesting than the programme notes’ explanation the term “entity”! Sitting on a row of chairs, young girls and men perform in a mechanical manner the gestures of everyday life, picked from the multitude of coffee shops dispersed around Cairo. Their energy is punctuated by a loss of breath which forces them to disarticulate, like a puppet whose strings are cut. It is only at the end of the performance that a big "ah!" emerges from them, retrieving their normal humanity.
Equally well applauded was the solo performance, Small Story by Mounir Saeed from Egypt. Moving in his sincerity and body language, Saeed retells a moment from Tahrir, the epicentre of  both downtown Cairo and the revolution. With the sounds of tear gas being launched, the artist-citizen manages the performance with modesty and sobriety.

Two actors from the Spanish EA&EA troupe presented Entomo, with all the force that a clash between two insects or two human beings can contain without turning into a cockfight. It is about a confrontation around the territorial occupation. The performance was an excellent example of the contemporary urban dance that accentuated, with artistic subtlety, this face-to-face confrontation of a duo trying to conquer city space.

Finally, a pair from Archeopteryx8, a troupe from the Netherlands, performed Murikamification, an open invitation to the audience to share a surrealistic, dream-like, magical moment. Absorbed in their reverie, the Dutch actors were the only ones to physically mingle with the audience, making their way between young and old viewers alike.

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