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'They Told Me It's Here': Mime Performance at Rawabet Theatre
As the Rawabet Factory Space filled up with people facing eight empty wooden chairs, slow and sad music began and the eight actors emerged slowly from behind a screen wearing medical coats. Almost an hour later, the audience was clapping, hooting, cheering and feeling perfectly content with the show.
The Cairo Acting School (CAS) will perform a theatrical mime called ‘They Told Me It's Here’ at Rawabet Theatre this Wednesday, May 11th and Thursday, May 12th at 9PM. The performance is directed by Dutch artists Guido Kleene and Jochem Stavenuiter and is the result of an extensive theatre workshop at Rawabet Theatre.
‘They Told Me It's Here’ is not your average theatre performance, so you shouldn't go with any preconceived notion of what you're about to see; that way, the pleasure of watching it will double. There is no plot, no defined storyline or visible ties between the characters. They have one thing in common, though; an obvious sense of discomfort and restlessness.
‘It's about tolerance,’ says director Guido Kleene, ‘which is quite a big topic.’ ‘Tolerance is projected through the movement – touching; you want to tolerate it but you cannot.’
The characters take their medical coats off, and then put them on again. Once they put on the coats, the sense of discomfort disappears. The characters also seem to lose control once they take off their coats; they are pushed around by the ones still wearing them, they are made to wear wigs, masks and ordered to sit in certain places.
As they move around out of the coats, they become characters ‘in dilemmas,’ as Kleene says. They try to tolerate the touch of the person next to them, but cannot and so the pain of this conflict is voiced through their movement and energy. A male character sits with a female character, while another man sits on her other side and begins touching her; the three of them then mime their inner dialogue through their body language.
There is some talk, but not much as it is, after all, a mime performance. Whatever is said, though, adds to the sense of the heavy, unbearable displeasure that they all feel.
The cast of ‘They Told Me It's Here’ does an outstanding job: Amr Abed, Hamdy Eltounsy, Hany El Metennawy, Ibrahim Salah, Karim Kassem, Maryam Saleh, Mayy Salem and Mustafa El Munufi all show great talent and the rare ability to keep the audience captivated by their presence for as long as they are on stage.
It's definitely worth watching – twice! ‘They Told Me It's Here’ is a blend of great directing and acting talent and a great subject matter that was very well-presented on stage. Be sure to catch it at Rawabet Theatre tonight or for its final show tomorrow at 9PM.
A play steeped in witty humour, sketches inspired by Egypt’s political scene and the youth pop culture, 1980 Wenta Tale3 (1980 Onwards) directed by Mohamed Gabr is one of the most popular and most watched performances in Cairo.
Showing most recently at El Hosapeer Theatre on Galaa Street in the busy Ramsis district, the play is performed by a group of 12 energetic actors from acting troupe, Studio Al Prova, but however isn’t without fault.
After buying our tickets (15LE), we entered Hosapeer’s large old furnished proscenium hall to what seemed like a full-house accommodating between 300 and 350 people. Lack of publicity and limited budget often translates to low turnout in public theatres; but not the case of 1980 Wenta Tale3, whose team should be saluted on their remarkable promotional efforts especially on social media.
Written by Mahmoud Gamal, 1980 Wenta Tale3 uses 15 or so sketches – which seem to have been written separately and put together through a collage of scenes – to highlight principal challenges facing the Egyptian society. Social dilemmas – including unemployment, marriage, inflation, uneven opportunities, healthcare, immigration and the country’s scattered political scene – are shown from the perspective of youth; the ones born during the 80s onwards.
A nostalgic 80s and 90s Egyptian playlist entertains the crowd 15 minutes before the show starts; a well-played move by the crew to warm up the anticipating audience who were clapping and reminiscing as they heard Amr Diab’s Shawa’na, Mohamed Fouad’s Kamanana and Mohamed Mounir’s Ally Sotak.
The play starts with a scene showing all the characters posing for a photograph in which they tell the audience their ages and a fun fact about who they are. The scene is repeated 3 times in the play, with the mood and dialogue of the scene gradually changing as unpleasant situations unfold within the lives of the characters or within Egypt’s state of affairs.
From then on, the play presents plenty of creative sketches; an epic parody of the famous Egyptian operetta El Leila El Kebira, which pokes fun at post-January 25th political discourse; a couple getting engaged, married, having children, aging and dying without ever being able to afford an apartment; an immigrant-to-be bidding farewell to friends showing great apathy to leaving his homeland.
Gamal, the playwright, has crafted a script that touches on many elements of Egyptian pop culture using humour that definitely doesn’t go unnoticed. Some of his ideas included imagining what life would be like in the year 2150 and imagining policeman as an operator receiving people’s demonstration inquiries.
Unfortunately, the script is a little sloppy, occasionally lacking dramatic depth and suffering from genericism, especially in its monologues and music used to enforce dramatic effect. This, in turn, seems to have boxed the actors into some on-the-nose clichéd moments; despite this, however, the actors’ energy and focus was remarkable throughout.
Content-wise, 1980 Wenta Tale3 is a little unpolished and rough around the edges; the script was humorous, but lacked depth at times; performances were lively, but felt forced; even the blocking was rather inconsistent.
But with the limitations considered – monetary or otherwise – it’s a fun play; an entertaining combination of comedy and drama that stays fresh by adding new sketches that reference current affair. With great dedication, both the cast and the crew should be commended for the production’s inspiring collaborative effort. Overall, a play that’s definitely worth your time.