Hamam Maghrebi (Moroccan Bath) is not thought-provoking fare
It’s usually difficult to start by undermining a work of art with the aim of criticizing it.
Hamam Maghrebi (Moroccan Bath), a theater production that had its opening curtain last week at Faisal Nada Theatre, seemed to have the right ingredients to achieve a certain degree of artistic and commercial success.
With an experienced cast including actress Wafa Maki, Al Shahata Mabrouk and others who often grab our attention in both cinema and theatre and a fairly high budget the play should have thrilled audiences.
And it had the necessary staples of songs, dancing intervals, hilarious jokes with sexual connotations that pepper every show and a new thematic approach.
But the concoction of all these elements fell flat with a dull thud.
Had it been more focused, ‘Hamam Maghrebi’ could have struck a chord with many people, especially villagers who are sometimes evicted from their own houses in provincial areas for one reason: Their homes were built on archaeological sites.
The performance is about a poor Egyptian citizen (played by Shahata Mabrouk) who lives in an old Hamam, public bath.
Overnight an international organization discovers that the place is invaluable in terms of archaeology.
To approach him in an attempt to start negotiations for evicting him from his domicile, the organization sends him on a paid-vacation to a sea-resort. Never mind the chills of winter had already descended.
The poor citizen has never seen the sea in his life, because he is kept to work in summer when his colleagues enjoy vacation time during that season.
When he returns from vacation, he is shocked to find a gathering of media people thronging his house, which is now guarded by a ‘Ghafir’ a rural security man.
The media pundits are being aided by Samir, a top archaeologist who is out trying to pinch his fiancée Laila, (played by Wafaa Maki), also a student of archaeology who is in love with the poor citizen and is tolerating Samir’s advances so as to help her with her studies.
Finally the organization is forcing him to evict in return for LE 1 million. Will he succumb to temptation?
Although the play revolved around this critical issue, its effect has been diluted by the performance’s relatively shorter time-span that has been mostly consumed by the love story and other irrelevant comic episodes which were more amusing than thought-provoking.
At the end of the show you just start to wonder at the title? Why Moroccan Bath? Was it Moroccan in the sense that it was claimed by foreigners belonging to ‘maghrib’ that literally means ‘west’ in Arabic?
Also the decoration in the backdrop did not inspire in the least the presence of a Hamam. There was only a water well lying in one corner of a living room. The dances and songs presented were symbolically relevant but did not make a lasting impression.
But if we consider the productions of the commercial theatre in Egypt, ‘Hamam Maghrebi’ is not the odd one out.
It’s understandable that many producers will ask: Should we stop making plays? No, but theatre-goers also expect the commercial theatre to be up the standard since, more often that not, it utilizes the services of the same casts and experts as the National theatre.
No denying that viewing ‘Hamam Maghrebi’, one was amused. It would be fun to encourage people to go and see it as a form of distraction.
Nothing more. Nothing less.