A new play is set to open this Thursday, 5 December, which touches upon the theme of Egyptian dependency on foreign aid, specifically US aid to Egypt.
“The play addresses the issue indirectly. The plot revolves around a financial club at the brink of bankruptcy and a tourist passing through Egypt who offers to save it by giving the members money. Before she does so, she proposes a seemingly absurd experiment on a randomly chosen specimen from the club’s members,” said playwright Baheeg Ismail.
“The aim is to test the soul of these people; if their soul is alive, they deserve to be rescued and if not, then not. Eventually, she is surprised by their success but is still reluctant to giving them money and puts forth more absurd conditions until finally they decide to solve their problem on their own,” he said.
Ismail said that he encountered no problems with the censors and added that the theatre and art centre El Beit El Fanny “has an ambitious plan to create a renaissance and is trying to attract actors from the private sector.”
This could be seen as a welcome change after many conflicts with state censors the previous year. Another play, “Aasheqeen Torabek”, had its creators organise a solidarity stand before censors finally let it continue without the changes they proposed.
The play had included actors wearing long beards, former Prime Minister Hesham Qandil was mentioned directly by name. The censors demanded certain scenes be cut out and insisted the word “Qandil” be taken out. It is unclear whether support for Zan’et Regala is due to the convenient subject matter or a more lax attitude toward the arts.
The play is rife with symbolism, but Ismail says he made sure the plot was simple and accessible to everyone, which he said was his personal writing style,
“The experiment the arrogant tourist proposes includes giving the random sample, which includes diverse individuals meant to represent the Egyptian people, a painting. The first half painted is painted blue and the lower half in yellow. The two colours represent the sky and the earth without mankind’s interference. When we mix these colours together, we get green: the colour of life.”
“The tourist’s condition is that they cannot use water to mix the two colours but must either use tears or sweat. The question is whether Egyptians will solve their problems through sadness and commiseration or through hard work and effort?” he said.
The play will debut on the Gh’ad stage in the Balloon theatre at 9pm on Thursday. It stars Ahmed Rateb and will last an hour and a half. Audiences can catch it for the coming month and Ismail says they can expect a mix of tragedy and comedy in a “simple allegory that they can interpret however they want.”