Let’s give the best of what we have for those people who have waited for us all this time, theater director Doaa Teama told her cast and crew before the start of her play “Shaklaha Bazet (It’s Falling Apart), winner of the Seventh Arab Festival for Amateur Theater.
Judging by the ill-fated organization of the festival that caused postponement and cancellation of several performances, it was almost inconceivable for Teama and her crew to set up the décor, install the lighting equipment and check the sound in less than two hours.
But the lack of facilities or adequate budget didn’t discourage them. Neither did the muddled festival that awarded their play prizes for best performance and best second actor.
The script of the 80-minute play performed by El-Gerab Group is based on three recent hit books: “Shaklaha Bazet by Omar Taher, “Captain Misr (Egypt’s Captain) also by Taher and “Gazma Waheda Malea Bil Ahdas (A Shoe Filled with Events) by Bassem Sharaf. Together, the three books represent a sarcastic critique of modern Egyptian society.
The larger part of the play though is focused on “Shaklaha Bazet, presenting an ironic panorama of Egyptian daily life with its discrepancies and double standards in comic sketches.
“Taher himself laughed at his words while the group performed the play, Taema said.
Shaklaha Bazet is a play within a play. It opens with a group of young actors who decide to play a strange game. The game eventually turns into a play that randomly presents the trials and tribulations of their generation. The protagonist witnesses events like the murder of a president live on air and a minister who introduces cancerous products into society but is safeguarded by the ruling party.
The play charts all phases of life of Egyptian youth, starting from childhood, going through the advice parents impose on their kids, up until the inevitable stage when they face the shock of multi-media and the digital age. It ends in the year 2008 with the would-be theater stage manager rebuking the actors and accusing them of breaking all theatrical rules.
“We included this scene to tell everybody that we deliberately violated the rules and depended on comic sketches to deliver our message, Teama explained.
The performance’s simple set by Mohamed Gaber and Heba Tantawy’s ragged costumes creatively echoed the distracted, confused mentalities and flimsy, scattered social life of Egypt’s youth and their search for identity.
Teama decided to cast a young boy and a girl in an attempt to unearth the roots of the problems and social complexities this group of adolescents eventually face.
A sense of nostalgia was reflected through parodies of old children s TV programs and songs, fashion, different attitudes young people adopted and their hopes and frustrations. The elated, cheering audiences could clearly identify with a simpler, yet complex age whose residues continue to dominate their lives.
Most of the cast are the Arts Academy students expect for two children who are members of the Cairo Conservatoire primary school.
The theatrical adaptation of the three books was no easy feat. Teama explained: “For months, we met and planned every scene on paper, trying to imagine how it would be until we all agreed on it.
“We then picked up the best scenes and set up unified themes for the play’s sketches, she added.
The group needed a thematic line connecting all scenes together. “There was nothing more convenient than the life of young people starting from childhood, to adolescence to adulthood, Teama noted.
“Young people mimic each other, just following new trends without understanding the reason for them, she added.
El-Gerab group is performing “Shaklaha Bazet this week at Lazikia Comic Theater Festival in Syria. The performance is also set to participate in various theater festivals in Egypt in the next few months.