No Time for Art tells accounts of military and state security detention in a minimalist theatrical manner.
Having been to many galleries, film screenings and theatrical performances post-25 January, it has been noticeably evident that many works after the advent of the revolution offer little reflection, glorious slogans that evoke feelings of the triumph of a revolution still in the making, and a sense of unreadiness to be able to produce something with an amount of sincerity.
However, No Time for Art does not include any of the above. It is almost bereft of slogans and empty words and offers a great amount of sincerity from the actors, perhaps because they were telling stories they have witnessed or lived.
While entering the space, tickets sold are stickers of the now-famous poster that the graffiti artist Ganzeer has made and was detained for hours because of. The striking yellow poster displays the image of a man wearing a mask as above it says, “New on the market, the mask of freedom, from the Supreme Council of Armed Forces to our beloved people.”
Each attendee receives an envelope containing the name of a martyr, his age, and the place of his death, and how he was murdered.
This is made for a process conducted at the beginning of the performance, where each person reads out loud that he demands the trial of those responsible for the murder of the martyr.
Two actors standing by two placards of Egypt’s map mark the places where most deaths took place and cross out their age in a table that at the end reveals — not unexpectedly — that most that died were between the ages of 16 and 39.
By the end of this process. on the 22 June performance, one of the actors, Maryam Saleh, was tearing up and started singing the national anthem, while the audience chimed in.
Two accounts are then told, the first is by Aly Sobhy, who was one of those detained by the military on 9 March; the second is performed by Shereen Hegazy, who tells the account of a person that likes to remain anonymous. The latter had been imprisoned unjustly in 2007 and was released during the uprising, when prisoners were forcefully let loose in an attempt to create havoc in the country.
The accounts are performed in an interlacing manner; sometimes this approach worked and at other times it didn’t. As some sentences completed each other in the different accounts and were relevant to one another, sometimes the shift was somewhat forced and at other times distracting. Also, the account told by Shereen Hegazy was somewhat overshadowed during the process.
Sobhy who was among the detainees of 9 March, recalls how he was beaten up, tortured and electrocuted, and said that perhaps if it wasn’t for the protests by fellow activists, he would’ve still been in there.
His account, which was circulated on Facebook upon his release, offers a sarcastic but grim description of all that he and his other detainees faced. Sobhy was portrayed in Egyptian State TV as a thug. A clip of that evening was shown as well as a clip of the morning of that same day, where the Egyptian media was praising the police force and reporting that life calmed in Tahrir Square and traffic was flowing smoothly.
Aly satirises the scene as he describes how the military brought all the people who were captured and placed molotovs and knives in front of them, to show they are thugs. “And, of course, they took you in the front because of your long hair and fallen front teeth,” an actress tells Sobhy.
Though the performance was mainly of account-telling it included some blocking and in some instances a conversational manner. Touches of clear mis-en-scene helped the accounts take an interesting theatrical form.
No Time for Art will play on 23 June and 24 June at Rawabet Theatre in the Townhouse Gallery in Hussein El-Meamar Pasha Street, Downtown, Cairo.
The performance starts at 8pm.