Adaptation of Saadallah Wanous play draws on the current political situation

Menna Taher, Wednesday 11 Jul 2012

Applied Arts students of Helwan University perform an adaptation of 'Elephant, King of All Time' at Rawabet Theatre

El Feel

El Feel, an Applied Arts Faculty student play directed by Mohamed El Abd, opened yesterday at Rawabet Theatre. It is an adaptation of El-Feel Ya Malek El-Zaman (Elephant, King of All Time) by the late Syrian playwright Saad Allah Wanous. 

The play draws on current political events in Egypt, telling the story of an oppressive king, who has an elephant that terrifies and kills the people of his country. One day the people decide to demand the removal of the elephant; but when they reach the palace, fear overtakes them and instead they ask that the elephant should be married so he could produce more elephants. 

To make the performance relevant to the current situation, the king's elephant was replaced by a television. However, this mixture of the old and contemporary was somewhat awkward especially when it comes to the language that alternated between colloquial and fusha (classical Arabic), the command of which varied from one actor to another, making some lines barely comprehensible. 

One could also see that the actors were more comfortable in the contemporary setting, and this was highlighted in the satirical moments of the performance. One depicted the widely popular Turkish television serials that are dubbed in Syrian dialect, while another depicted the king playing a PlayStation fighting game with revolutionaries on one side and police, snipers and thugs on the other. The choreography was well-executed by Rim Hegab in the PlaysStation part, with captivating costumes. 

Had the play relied more on song and choreography, it would have been more interesting. The play closed with a dance with one actor holding the head of a male elephant, and another holding the head of a female elephant. During the sequence, a patriotic Egyptian military song played. 

The fact that the performance was very straightforward in its political message was not one of its setbacks; it is rather the play's closing in which the narrator explains the lesson learned that was off-putting. The narrator says something along the lines of “If you don't wake up the story will continue along that path,” which can be inferred from the play easily enough. 

The play had participated in the theatre competition between local Universities and received the last place, giving the theatre troupe the title “The Last”. The play will be performed on 11 and 12 July in Rawabet Theatre located in Hussein Me'mar Pasha Street, off Mahmoud Bassiouny Street. 

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