Hungarian circus groups prove popular with Egyptian crowds

Farah Montasser, Monday 15 Oct 2012

Hungarian circus troupes Goldi and Firebirds speak to Ahram Online about the art of circus performing and their experiences in Egypt


During its first week, CirCairo International Circus Festival featured two "exceptional", as described by the audience, Hungarian circus groups: Goldi and Firebirds.

Both performances debuted on Thursday 11 October at El-Genaina Theatre in Al-Azhar Park in Cairo, and were accompanied by a workshop for children at Darb Al-Ahmar on Friday and another final performance in Menoufiya governorate in the Nile Delta on Saturday.

The small stage of El-Genaina was packed, leaving many attendees standing. Laughs, cheers, and clapping did not stop for a minute, especially from the youngest audience members.

Firebirds consisting of three members who took to the stage, performing acrobatic movements in addition to their juggling of fire and hoops.

"Circus shows have developed and continue to grow," Kristian Gora from Firebirds told Ahram Online. "We no longer see the traditional clown with the big red nose but the same jokes are there accompanied by modern acrobats," he explains.

"We were overwhelmed with the size of the city," they comment. "Cairo is the size of our country in total," says Sophia, the female member of Firebirds. "It is a fantastic experience," says Gora.

"The audience were beyond our expectations… they are more cooperative than we thought," Geret Kiss, another member of Firebirds states.

Following Firebirds, Goldi, a one-man show, turned out to be a "highlight of the CirCairo programme since its launch," according to a member of the audience.

Goldi's act consisted of juggling of swords and some funny sketches. The audience was captivated by his interaction with them. "My show is more of a street circus, which invites audience to participate," he tells Ahram Online.

Dressed as a pirate and acting like a drunken one, Goldi imitated a version of Johnny Depp's famous Disney character Jack Sparrow from the film the Pirates of the Caribbean.

Like Depp, Goldi was seen as handsome by female audience members, and funny and entertaining by the men and the youngsters.

With less music to accompany his show and more talking and joking with the audience, Goldi did some fire juggling as well. A young Egyptian boy, Ibrahim, at one point participated by doing a handstand.

In fact, the young Ibrahim was so good that Basma El-Husseiny, head of Al-Mawred Al-Thaqafi (Cultural Resources) group in Egypt wanted to recruit him for the Darb Al-Ahmar circus school.

"I loved performing here and can't wait to meet the young artists from Darb Al-Ahmar at the workshop," Goldi tells Ahram Online.

In regards to planning for Thursday's performances, Firebirds and Goldi agreed that they had to organise what to present here in Egypt. "I made some adjustments to my wardrobe before I came here as I did not want to provoke a conservative society like Egypt," Sophia reveals.

Sophia's fears of approaching the "Islamic community following the Muslim Brotherhood rule" as she put it, disappeared the minute the troupe started performing. "The audience reactions and interaction with us gave us a boost," Gora says.

"They appreciated our performances," Gora says, while being interrupted by Geret Kiss, his colleague, "They are very receptive to this art form and appreciate our culture as well...We felt welcomed among Egyptians."

"Goldi was more daring than us and the audience loved him for that," Gora comments.

Throughout his show, Goldi made some bold jokes that the majority loved, laughing their hearts out, leaving only a few faces among the audience unhappy, to the surprise of journalists covering the event, as well as the organisers.

One joke involved putting some small bombs down his trousers; the children in the audience at the front were more than delighted to see his trousers explode not once but five times.

Although there were a few conservative people among the audience at El-Genaina who were unappreciative of the art presented, against all odds, the Hungarians' performances at Menoufiya on Saturday prior to their departure back to Hungary was "the most successful circus performance of all," Ashraf Kenawy, director of CirCairo tells Ahram Online, stressing the appreciation of art in rural areas and small governorates in Egypt compared to the capital.

According to the director, over 1,500 people came to watch Goldi and Firebirds in the governorate of Menoufiya, north of Cairo. "Among the audience we could see all walks of life... there were modern-looking men and women in addition to conservatively-dressed ones," he said. "Everyone enjoyed it, even women wearing the niqab accompanied by their husbands."

The performances lasted over two hours and were followed by cheers from locals demanding to see more.

"A large number of the crowd even approached us and our performing guests to get to know us and asked us for more in Menoufiya," Kenawy comments.

In addition to their stage performances, according to the festival's programme, both groups gave a general workshop to children in the Darb Al-Ahmar district in Cairo and its arts school for local children.

"We will be teaching the children some techniques and small tricks," says Gora. "Nothing sophisticated like our shows but the first steps."

"I am eager to communicate and work with those children," Goldi tells Ahram Online. "I will show them some clown-like jokes and teach them some juggling."

"My performing style requires a lot of improvisations and therefore I would like to how we communicate first with one another and what is it that they want to do," he explains.

CirCairo International Circus Festival continues in Egypt until Saturday 20 October.

Check out the CirCairo Programme.

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