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Kenawy: Audience currently seeks meaningful art

Soul Bar, an attempt to support international plays and reinvent Arabic language

By  Nayera Yasser

In the heart of a setup bar, Soul  Bar tells a story full of meaningful realizations, unfolding to the audience and transporting them to a different era. The show, which has been attracting an unpredicted number of attendees, has become a success that sold out days before the opening.

Soul  Bar is currently the talk of the town for several reasons, starting with the fact that is written in classical Arabic and performed in one of the state’s theatres. These two factors are enough to affect the audience’s size, but this particular play is strongly changing classic stereotypes.

Daily News Egypt met Soul Bar’s director, Bassem Kenawy, to learn more about all the happenings backstage and discuss how they managed to bring their ideas to one of Egypt’s most neglected forms of art.

Mrs. Red attracted a lot of attention with her outstanding singing numbers Facebook photo
Mrs. Red attracted a lot of attention with her outstanding singing numbers
Facebook photo

What is the main concept behind the play?

The entire premise focuses on people who should enjoy living according to their current circumstances. We have been through many difficult events, yet whenever we are faced with bigger challenges, we start accepting our life as it is; we even start appreciating it.

The current state of depression throughout the world is denying everyone the right to enjoy life as it is. I wanted to present this show because it represents great value of life, unlike the current economic and political events. You can always start appreciating life regardless.

You will encounter many difficult moments, but those should not lead you to the moment of utter depression and dreadful living.

Was the play taken from a literary work?

It is a reinterpretation of J.B Priestley’s play “The Rose and Crown”. We arranged a workshop in order to add further dimensions to the characters and to also add further (local) characteristics that the audience could relate to. The original characters were mere ideas; each one was a straightforward concept with no depth and history.

Yaser Abu El-Enen and I worked for a long time on the script in order for any audience member to find common ground with at least one of the characters. Someone might relate to Red, one of the characters, while others might have the same experiences as Stone, another character; it is a community that sums up different intellectual and economic categories.

I believe it does cover all the major different standards in the world; including middle and higher classes and the unfortunate poor; they all exist in our world.

The genuine feelings that each character conveyed brought tears from many audience members Facebook photo
The genuine feelings that each character conveyed brought tears from many audience members
Facebook photo

Why did you choose the formal Arabic language?

It was not a matter of choice, when presenting an international play with flavour, I could not use common slang unless I created an entirely different version with different morals. If you are watching a foreign movie, would you choose slang or classic? Arabic certainly adds an international feel to the end result.

When using slang to communicate an international novel, cultures would certainly clash. Some terminologies and metaphors do not suit international stories.

This is not my first Arabic show. I use Arabic to persuade a common public, which has not studied theatre nor has an interest in it, to watch a play and enjoy it. Some of my friends told me that when they heard the first Arabic word, they instantly felt an inner burden, but as each scene progressed, they started to relate to it and enjoy it.

I wanted the common person to enjoy the play as much as the most respectable critic and I believe we achieved that. One night, I was saluting the audience when I noticed well-known critic Nehad Selaiha and another random audience member, both crying after the show. This proved that I succeeded at reaching my goal.

The play is part of the Egyptian National Theatre Festival Facebook photo
The play is part of the Egyptian National Theatre Festival
Facebook photo

How did you market this show given that it is presented in a state theatre?

We did nothing at all, we did not have a poster, nor an advertisement in the newspaper. We counted on the audience who currently seek meaningful art, be it songs, movies, or plays. People are bored of anything that is poor quality in the arts or any other domain. I have received several grateful comments from the audience; one of them thanked me for respecting him and creating a respectable show.

The general audience is bored and wants to attend appropriate shows and so when something suitable is available, it is only normal that they encourage such initiative and market within their circle of friends and acquaintances with word of mouth. Some audience members have already watched the play three or four times. Selaiha herself has been to the show four times and each time brings someone different, which is something very rare, and it makes us super proud.

Topics: Soul Bar

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