1980 Wenta Tale3: Local Play Fuses Drama & Comedy to Address Egypt’s Social & Political Challenges
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.