Writer and Director: Ahmed El Attar
Sound and Visual Arts: Hassan Khan
Reviewer: Molly Knox
Before The Revolution by Ahmed El Atter aims to transport those watching into a moment right before the eruption of the Egyptian Revolution, through alternative and unconventional storytelling. This play, which was first created at the Rawabet Theatre in 2017 in Cairo, doesn’t shy away from being as brutal as it needs to be in order to convey all the tension, anger, volatility, violence and oppression building up to this crucial point in Egypt’s recent past. With a marvellously written blend of reality and fiction, it’s unfortunate to note the lack of dynamism that it so eagerly wants to capture.
When entering the performance space, it’s impossible not to feel glared at by the performers, and immediately sense the tension in the air. You’re made to feel on edge as soon as you take your seat. Both performers are clearly very talented and pull together poignantly painful visuals throughout the piece. So, it’s a shame that their direction seemed a little static, although it’s clear to see that that was the artistic vision intended. Bare-minimal movement in this piece could’ve worked but sadly didn’t; probably because a stylistic choice like that requires full focus and attention, for the audience to commit to fixating on the performer’s emotive facial expression and vocal acting ability. This is hard to do when the performance is spoken entirely in Arabic and the (non-Arabic speaking) audience must continuously flick their eyes to the back wall, then back to the performers front stage centre, then back again, and so on. There’s something haunting about the words being spoken in the language that would best suit the context, however. This is so close to being spot on, but the piece doesn’t quite get it right. The effectiveness of this performance was probably much more impactful to its original audience who didn’t depend on subtitles.
Despite this show not visually hitting it right on the mark, Before The Revolution has a soundscape which delivers an emotional, cutting beat that drives throughout the piece, and writing which shoots off into so many compelling directions.
Runs until 25 August 2019 | Image: Contributed