The “Sayadati Anna” play, based on Bernard Shaw’s masterpiece “Pygmalion”, starring Dalia Al-Buhairi, Nidal Al-Shafei, Farid El-Nokrashy, Mohamed Al-Desouki, is currently playing at the National Theater. The play was directed by Mohsen Rizk.
About 110 years ago, the world stage witnessed a theatrical performance that caused a stir in artistic and cultural circles. The famous Irish writer, George Bernard Shaw, criticized the stratification of society through the story of “Pygmalion”, which is the name borrowed from a Greek myth.
The success of the socially meaningful story made it roam different countries of the world with different versions, and it was turned into a movie entitled “My Fair Lady”, in 1964, starring Audrey Hepburn and Rex Harrison, which won the Academy Award for Best Film, to find its way after that to the Egyptian scene in many works, the most famous of them was a play that held the same name, starring Fouad El-Mohandes and Shweikar. Recently, Ahmed El-Sakka and Reem Mostafa presented a new version of the play at one of the private theatres in 6th of October city.
In the cinema, Nadia Lotfy embodied the same character with Ahmed Mazhar in the movie “Days of Love”. This is in addition to several films that dealt with the same subject, including a movie called “My Fair Lady” starring Mahmoud Yassin and Nelly, and the movie “The Savage” starring Mahmoud Abdel Aziz and Souad Hosni.
Currently, the stage of the National Theater in Cairo is witnessing a new version of the international show entitled “Siyadatai Ana”, starring Dalia Al-Buhairi and Nidal Al-Shafei. In this interview, the makers of the work talk about it.
In the beginning, the Egyptian author and director Mohsen Rizk said that the play “Sayidati Ana” represents the original version of George Bernard Shaw’s novel, in a lyrical and musical framework. He says, “I found it appropriate for the current time, it is completely far from the Egyptian version that was previously presented by the late writer Bahjat Qamar, accompanied by the late artist Fouad El-Mohandes and Shweikar.
Director Mohsen Rizk added, “We faced many challenges while preparing for the play.” He explained that the biggest challenge is presenting it on the great National Theater, on which the great stars of the Arab world have previously stood, and therefore “we must present a respectable work befitting this stage, and the difficult production conditions posed a special challenge, which we tried to overcome with the help of the work team: Poet Adel Salama, musician Mahmoud Talaat, decorator Hamdi Attia, graphic designer John Bahaa and performance designer Mostafa Hajjaj, in addition to the stars of the show and the stars of the national theater.
He added: “There is no comparison between a great experience that is considered one of the icons of the theater, which is “My Fair Lady” by the late Fouad El-Mohandes and Shweikar, and our play “Sayadatay Ana” because art depends on points of view, and the experience of My Fair Lady was appropriate in its time and achieved great success. Therefore, it was difficult to represent the Egyptian version because it was already Egyptianized through this play, and the audience was associated with this work, and the comparison is not in favor of the modern show.
Rizk indicated that the experience of the play “Sayidaty Ana” is a new experience for him on the stage of the national theater, noting that the work includes a large group of actors, led by Nidal Al-Shafei, who has theatrical experience before, and Dalia Al-Buhairi, who is modern in theatrical work, and who adhered to all rehearsals.
He pointed out that “Pygmalion” by George Bernard Shaw was an experiment that had different editions around the world, noting that it was different from the play presented by Fouad El-Muhandis and Shweikar.
He commented: “The idea of the play relies on music primarily in the colloquial Egyptian language, but the clothes, style, and graphics take place in London, Britain. He noted that this is considered a modern technology on the state stage, as it is the theater that has the inherent right for all directors, producers, and actors in Egypt.”
Rizk said: “Presenting “My Fair Lady” was the dream of his life since childhood, commenting: “I am a fan of Professor Fouad El-Mohandes, who was a great professor and great artist in our lives, and I loved the theater through Professor Fouad El-Mohandes.”
He added that the great writer Bahgat Qamar had Egyptianized “My Fair Lady” to suit the era of the Khedive and Kamal Tarouti, but through my studies when I read George Bernard Shaw, I found that the original text contained details and things that were not addressed.
He said: “I love musical plays, and works that include performances and singing, so I suggested implementing the original version, especially since we are on the stage of the national theater with its culture and heritage, and therefore the audience of the national theater is aware of that.”
Egyptian actress Dalia El-Behairy presents her second theatrical experience through “Sayidaty Ana”, in which she embodies the character “Eliza Doolittle”. This is where she explained that her first theatrical experience was through the play “Abu Al-Arabi” with the artist Hani Ramzy, written by Mohsen Rizk, and when he offered her the play, she agreed without hesitation.
El-Behairy described the experience as different, especially since the character “Eliza” is very close to her heart, but at the same time it is difficult and full of different details and stages. The first stage begins while she is on the street and the transformation in her life then happens when she meets “Dr. Adam”.
El-Behairy plays a show-singing personality, which required special training and skills from her, as she explained that she relied on the performance designer, Mustafa Hajjaj, who made great efforts and many training sessions with her. She indicated that the play includes 8 performances, of which she presents 6, while in singing she sings about 4 songs with musician Mahmoud Talaat, stressing that singing is really difficult. This is especially since the director insisted that she sing the songs herself instead of hiring another singer, due to the difference in pitch between acting and singing, which makes her unrealistic.
El-Behairy confirmed that she is very happy with the responses that exceeded her expectations about the show, and she is more than happy with the praise she receives from the audience of the ancient National Theater. She confirms that their praise did not come out of nowhere, as all of this is the result of extensive rehearsals by the work team. She says, “The truth is that all of us, without exception, made a great effort in the preparations, and the training in the performances perfectly, so the reactions were very good and made us all happy.”
Egyptian actor Nidal Al-Shafei embodies the character of “Dr. Adam Henry”, who tries to present “Elisa” in a new and different way to society, explaining that the biggest challenge is presenting a play like “Sayadatai Ana” on the National Theater. This is because some believe that it is like “My Fair Lady” by the late Fouad Al-Muhandis and Shweikar, but this is wrong “because we present the main theme of” Pygmalion “and we took from it the names of the characters in English and their events and represented them in a modern, developed and comical meaningful way that suits our current era and with a different point of view.”
Al-Shafei added that he presented various performances, which required him to perform arduous exercises so that the audience would see them as natural, and the dances were designed in a distinctive way, in addition to many exercises with musician Mahmoud Talaat to present a good musical combination befitting the national theater, the real Egyptian theater, which previously presented the great stars of art. .
Al-Shafei added: “When director Mohsen Rizk told me the idea of the play based on the original text “Pygmalion,” I immediately agreed, especially since the original script contained many details that the Egyptian audience had not seen. This is what encouraged me so that the audience would not compare us with the two legends Fouad El-Mohandes and Shweikar in the play “My Fair Lady”.
He said: “The audience’s turnout for the play and their response to every situation or show made us forget the exhaustion of rehearsals and the long discussions that we all had before the start of the show. The beautiful thing is that the play family is keen to give everything they have for the success of the show, but certainly success first and foremost from God. This is in addition to the treatment that director Mohsen Rizk did and his strict instructions not to deviate from the script.
Al-Shafei added that the wish of every actor who loves the idea of acting and theater is to stand on the stage of the Egyptian theater, as it is a stage that has a special relationship and is one of the oldest theaters in the Middle East.
Al-Shafei said: “It is a great honor for us to stand on the National Theater, and the stage represents great fear, but to stand on the National Theater, the fear is doubled.”