“We won’t sing happy birthday because we’re not tacky,” said Adham Hafez on stage. Behind me, an audience member whispered to her friend, “Tacky? He’s wearing a feather headdress!” Most things about Sunday’s performance at Vent were a NOT. It was NOT a Christmas concert, Hafez sang “we wish you a NOT Merry Christmas” and our main dish was NOT hot.
The event was marketed as an “electro-Burlesque take on your usual Christmas and Cabaret music,” and said “Hafez will take you on a musical journey where Santa will sing grunge and perform Opera & electronic versions of Jazzy numbers.”
In reality, it was just Hafez singing a few songs in a headdress. It goes without saying that most of the crowd was underwhelmed with what they saw; everyone was expecting something outrageous and theatrically camp, but instead got a one-man act with little else to entertain the audience.
In all fairness, Hafez is not a singer and does not claim to be. He is a performer, first and foremost, but the audience did not know that. Even though Hafez’s performance was redeemed a little by the ease his stage persona displayed, it was not enough to satisfy the audience. On one hand, his voice was not good enough to carry the evening, and on the other, his performance was not out there enough. If anything, it felt conservative in light of what we were promised.
Several times Hafez said that what he was going to do next was not “Cairo appropriate” or some other variant and if there is any place where a bold performance of “electro-burlesque” would be appropriate, it is Vent. Hafez’s concern that his show would be too shocking was completely misplaced because the songs had very little shock value.
We have to say that we are impressed by Vent’s versatility; this is the third time we have visited since its opening and we have seen something very different every time. On one occasion we went to party, another to see a film and on Sunday it was Hafez and a un-Christmas dinner.
The dinner part of the evening consisted of a set menu of EGP100 which included a vegetarian option, but there was nothing to indicate the additional EGP50 charge at the door in the publicity. The regular meal consisted of turkey with raspberry sauce, mashed potatoes with gravy and vegetables, a glass of mulled wine, broccoli soup and blueberry pie. The broccoli soup, mulled wine and blueberry pie were all delicious and hot.
Our main dish was decent but sadly arrived between lukewarm and cold. This was probably due to being some of the first tables to get food; others who were served after us, said their food was warm and delicious, indicating perhaps that the first-served were unlucky enough to have their dishes cool off while others were being prepared.
We were disappointed with Hafez’s performance, if only because we were expecting more from a performer who seemed to be holding back. The moment the performance ended and the music started playing, the mood visibly lightened and the crowd seemed relieved to know what they could expect this point onwards. Though we applaud both Vent and Hafez for a daring idea, we think next time a more modest description is needed to keep the audience’s expectations in check or for the performer to go all out and deliver burlesque in all its glory. Then again, we did get free shots on the house.