Review: Have they really been made for happiness?

Ahmed Maged
6 Min Read

Nisaa Al-Saada questions whether feminine political rule would be different

The presence of different ethnic groups or the wide gap between the rich and poor could be perceived as some of the factors leading to civil strife in any country. But very few of us could have even entertained the idea that the current feminist trends, presently promoted to excess in some Arab countries, including Egypt, are beginning to create a divide in the national front, threatening the nucleus of the society – the family.

This is the theme underlying the theatrical performance of “Nisaa Al-Saada (Happiness is Women), which is currently being presented at Al-Salam Theater.

The play, which has been hailed as the most distinguished work in the new theatrical season, which usually kicks off with the beginning of autumn, has received rave reviews in the local press and is generating an enviably LE 14,000 a night, an amount to reckon with for a public sector production.

Exciting, satirical, heart-rending and tragic all at one time, “Nisaa Al-Saada is almost packed every night and it was interesting to see that the majority of the Sunday show’s theater-buffs were female students who must have been drawn to the idea of a performance directed primarily at females.

Starring Wafaa Amer and Ahmed Wafik, written by Mohamed Hassan Al-Alfy and directed by Hassan Abdel Salam, the director an old hand at the art of theater, the play is a semi-musical that starts with comically boisterous notes intended to satirize greed for power and power games in a way that directly reflects upon the regimes in Egypt and other Arab nations. It then moves on to elaborate on how these two issues regrettably make up the core of the tug-of-war between men and women even though many are unaware that it echoes today’s political maneuvers.

This work obviously refutes the remark one politician made to men, “Enough is enough, let women dabble in politics, for we’ve suffered men for long enough.

Although the theme is for the most part maintained, the rhythm is disturbed as the viewers suddenly wake up to realistic oration-tainted parts that directly condemn the aggressions on Iraq, Lebanon and Palestine and the biased American policies in the world. These were not irrelevant, for any civil strife is likely to open the door to intruders. But the rather oratorical manner in which the ideas were stated diluted the dramatic effect of the work especially near the end.

The play takes place in a sultanate or a kingdom, nameless and removed from any historical context, a technique employed to ward off a possible link to the current political and social realities.

Sultan Abdel Naeem Al-Hilali (played by Wafik) decides to crown his wife Sultana Gawhara Bint Yakout (Amer) as the virtual ruler for one week in an attempt to give women the opportunity to prove their worth in running the state.

But tempted by the throne, the week turns into years. The sultana misuses her authority, deports the sultan to a remote area of the kingdom, restricts the duties of men to household chores and employs her two ministers, two powerful women, to bully people and, ironically, repress the female opposition that objects to the minimization of the role of men.

As threats to her throne increase, insecure Gawhara decrees that every woman with a male child should be aborted. But in the welter of her clashes for power, she suddenly discovers that she is pregnant with a male child! Will the sultana agree to abort herself and continue to banish men from her life and kingdom?

But the underlying questions of the work are: Does gender really matter when it comes to running the state? Will feminine rule be devoid of the misuse of power, repression and other malpractices? The work is also designed to push women to think about whether they can really live happily if they always have the upper hand.

Apart from the content, one can’t speak of “Nisaa Al-Saada without giving an admiring nod to the performance of Amer who has shown her valor as a competent theatrical actress, drawing applause as well as tears and laughs from everybody. Praise should also go to the group of dancers who articulate the theme and the ring of boys and girls disguised as monkeys to give the animals’ comments on the human situation and reinforce the satirical nature of the work.

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