Before the Revolution
Ahmed El Attar
Temple Independent Theatre Company (Egypt)
A man and a woman wearing pristine white clothes stand motionless under the spotlights on a low, white plinth from which protrude numerous long, sharp nails. Behind them and to their side is darkness, except for a screen upon which will be projected the English surtitles for this Arabic language performance.
It’s a vivid image, a metaphor for the uncomfortable paralysis of Egypt before the Arab Spring. And there are other ways this piece illustrates the same point.
The two actors speak continuously alongside a soundscape of harsh, repetitive percussion. They speak about disasters at sea and on the railways, of assassinations, of terrorist attacks and of the blatant corruption of Egypt. Occasionally they row with each other about trivia and at various times describe a banal television soap.
There is none of the usual things we get in a show. Missing is a narrative, a story, characters, or any dramatic development. The pacing is unchanging, insistent against that metallic percussion that threatens a collective audience headache. And for those who support an Egyptian Revolution there isn’t even a clear argument for change.
There is instead the actors' harsh forty-five-minute spoken collage, of catastrophe and the banal that characterise a rotten stagnant society. Egypt deserves a revolution that rids it of its cruel military dictators. Let's hope there is one soon.
Reviewer: Keith Mckenna