CAIRO: This week, the Townhouse Gallery in Cairo will host the 5th annual “Independent Theatre Festival, featuring works by theatrical and musical troupes from August 20 to August 24.
The troupes are among the 60 members of The Association of the Studies and Training of the Free Theater Troupes. Mohammed Abdul Khaliq, arts office Ddrector for the festival and chair of the association’s organizing committee, says the group’s often politically and socially charged works have roots in their very beginnings, back in 1990.
The group launched at the time of Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait. Disillusioned by the Egyptian government’s stance, Khaliq said the organization ordained themselves the Free Theatre Troupe, “so that the theater will be able to say what they’re not able to say in politics.
Sixteen years later, the reformed descendents of this theater culture adhere to the same general principles. Khaliq says that the troupes that make up this acting association and their coming festival are set apart by their “freedom seeking. Many of the works center on politics, religion, sex and women’s rights, topics often considered taboo in today’s Egyptian society.
Twenty-three of the Association’s troupes will take part in this festival, which will take place in three governorates – Cairo, Alexandria and Al-Minya – and will have six different locations.
Cairo’s festival, taking place in Downtown Cairo, will host four acting troupes and one music group. Don’t expect to find a common thread in these performances, Khaliq warns; what binds them together is their equally unique and individualistic styles.
Among the highlights Khaliq sees in this year’s festivals is the organization’s acquirement of a female director who will make debut in Al-Minya.
“This is something new and exciting for us, he says finding success in establishing not only independent acting troupes, but a female director in upper Egypt, which is a notably more conservative region.
If you’re stuck in Cairo, however, Khaliq recommends Thursday night’s performance, “Halat Tawariq, or “State of Emergency, being performed by Theatre Atelier.