Egyptian take on Duncan Macmillan's play Every Brilliant Thing in Beirut

Ahram Online , Wednesday 13 Sep 2023

Directed by Ahmed El-Attar, the interactive theatre play Every Brilliant Thing translated into Egyptian Arabic will be performed in Beirut on 21 and 22 September

Every Brilliant Thing


With the performances taking place at Beirut's Zico House and Studio Laban, Lebanese audiences will have an opportunity to experience a unique interactive monodrama.

The play was translated into Arabic, adapted, and directed by Ahmed El-Attar. It premiered in the Arab world in Egypt in May 2022 at the Rawabet Art Space, where it was performed numerous times.

Macmillan’s highly innovative text, one that has met with great success on stages in the UK and internationally, proved to be a big success among Egyptian audiences. In his take on the text, El-Attar placed actress Nanda Mohammad on stage - underscoring the irrelevance of the gender of the performer, as the play's protagonist. 

As Macmillan writes in the notes to the play, “The Narrator [as he calls his protagonist] can be played by a woman or a man of any age or ethnicity. In the first production [June 2013], the Narrator was portrayed by a British man.” In other words, with the gender barriers lifted, the real power of the text lies in its ability to diffuse any differences defined by gender-driven privileges and possibilities.

El-Attar's translation to Egyptian Arabic infused the play with many culture-specific components, attracting more viewers who felt the play strongly resonate with them.

Every Brilliant Thing goes far beyond the art of translation that allows a given text to be enjoyed by new communities. It is an eye opener on contemporary theatre, its role in today’s society, its malleability within societal and cultural differences and similarities, and its ability to depict, question, and assess the entanglement of human relations in the world that surrounds us.

The monodrama goes deep into that heartfelt journey through a mother’s suicidal depression and its repercussions on her family, specifically on the daughter.

Every Brilliant Thing is a list of all the amazing things a human – Nanda Mohammad in this case – encounters in all stages of life: ice cream, water fights, staying up past your bedtime and being allowed to watch TV, the color yellow, coffee… The list includes moments and experiences which, though they seem so trivial, form an abundance of brilliant things. This is a list with items counted in thousands, created over the years with an aim to help the mother see positive aspects of life, but even more so, to create a self-supporting mechanism for the human enumerating them.

As El-Attar clarifies in the notes to the play, “Every Brilliant Thing is a real lesson in theatre. The play manages to engage the audience while providing clear-cut emotions and inciting ample reflections. At the same time, its topic is extremely important, especially in our times, locally and internationally.”

The play has no scenography, no costume design, and minimal lighting. Supported by minimal accessories, the text becomes at the centre of the performance.

The play is produced by Orient Productions for Film & Theater. Its performance in Lebanon is made possible due to the support of the British Council in Lebanon and Culture Resource.

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