Friday,24 November, 2017
Current issue | Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)
Friday,24 November, 2017
Issue 1308, (18 -24 August 2016)

Ahram Weekly

Final curtain

Nehad Selaiha assesses the awards of the Ninth National Theatre Festival

Ya Sem
Ya Sem
Al-Ahram Weekly

Ninth National Egyptian Theatre Festival, 19 July – 9 August, 2016.


Minister of Culture Hilmi Al-Namnam whipped up a storm of anger at the closing ceremony of the Ninth edition of the National Theatre Festival, souring the festive atmosphere. In a short, improvised speech, which followed comprehensive reviews of the event and constructive suggestions for the future by head of the festival Nasser Abdel-Moneim and its manager, Ismail Mokhtar, and a fair, general appraisal of the merits and shortcomings of the competing productions by the jury, delivered by their chosen spokesman, veteran actor Ashraf Abdel-Ghafour, he took it into his head to attack all theatre critics in Egypt, many of whom were present on the occasion. Calling upon the festival organisers to try and promote good theatre criticism, he brazenly declared that, though an avid reader, he had not read any since the demise of Ali Al-Raie (1999) and Farouk Abdel-Kader in 2010.

Unluckily for him, this crassly irresponsible and grossly unwarranted negation of the work of two successive generations of active, dedicated theatre critics comes at a time when the theatre criticism scene in Egypt looks particularly thriving, with new names making their mark every year and gaining credit both her and abroad. If Al-Namnam had taken the trouble to peruse the festival’s daily bulletin, which was regularly sent to his office and frequently contained excellent examples of practical and theoretical criticism, he would not perhaps have rushed into making such foolish statements. He would have done well also to remember that the two respectable 1960s’ critics he cited in his speech had turned their back on theatre at least twenty years prior to their demise, concentrating solely on fiction.

I was still smarting under the insult hurled at the profession by the minister and thinking that had I heard something like it only ten years ago, when I was younger, slimmer and considerably healthier, I would never have let it pass and would have probably yelled at him from the auditorium, standing on my chair, when Samiha Ayoub, as head of the jury, started announcing the awards. As I listened and cheered, I felt my anger and resentment melting away: most of the awards went to university and independent productions selected and nominated by the critics Al-Namnam had just denigrated, thus publicly vindicating their professional honour and critical judgment.

Not only did the top awards for best production and best director go to a university show – namely, the University of Tanta’s musical version of Brecht’s Threepenny Opera, but, as you will see from the list below, the awards for best actress, best rising director and best set, costume and lighting designs went to university productions as well. There were also the special jury award for best production, which the troupe of the Faculty of Engineering at Port Said University shared with a state-theatre production, the award for best rising playwright, which the author of the Theatre Institute’s Al-Khoroog Aan Al-Nass (Extempore, or Going Outside the Text) shared with the scriptwriter of the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Shakespeare’s Women and the best supporting actor award which went jointly to Ahmed Maged for his part in the above-mentioned Theatre Institute production and to Mohamed Wael for his role in the University of Tanta’s  Threepenny Opera. The university theatre also earned three of the ten certificates of special merit handed out by the jury.

The independent theatre also did well in this edition, with Abeer Ali’s Al-Ramadi (Grey) – a dramatisation of George Orwell’s 1984 – winning the second best production award, Sherine Hegazi’s Ya Sem (Go to Hell) – an ingenious, feminist deconstruction of oriental dancing – deservedly sharing the best choreography award with Monadil Antar’s  Al-Bassaseen (The Informers or Spies), Fatma Hassan scooping for the Anaconda theatre troupe in Qena the best supporting actress award for her role in Al-Qayd (Shackles), and Ahmed Saad Wali, the founder of the Victor independent troupe, winning the best rising actor award for his part in the troupe’s  Drama Al-Shahateen (A Beggars’ Drama). This last award took me by surprise; I had been told, as I mentioned in my article last week, that the troupe had been disqualified from competing in the festival when it was discovered that the show was first produced in 2014. What a pleasant surprise it was to find that they had somehow sorted out this problem with the jury and won at least one prize. They are a serious, talented, dedicated troupe and I expect much of them in the future.

The awards, however, did not do justice to some really very deserving shows, including the Alsun theatre group’s version of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s An Angel Comes to Babylon, which only got a certificate of merit for one of the cast. But then, all festival awards are always controversial and invariably cause as much joy as disappointment. However, on the whole, the awards this year were substantially fair. See and judge for yourself.


The Awards:

Best Production: The Threepenny Opera, by the University of Tanta troupe.

Second Best Production: Al-Hanager’s Al-Ramady (Grey),

The Jury’s Special Best Production Award went jointly to Al-Talia Theatre’s The Good Person and The Song of the Lusitanian Bogey, by the troupe of the Faculty of Engineering at Port Said University.

Best Director: Al-Said Mansi for The Threepenny Opera.

Best Rising Director: Mohamed Fouad, for The Forty Rules of Love by the troupe of the Faculty of Law, Ain Shams University.

Best Playwright: Sameh Mahran, for Al-Ghad Theatre’s Inbox.

Best Rising Playwright: shared by Ahmed Nabil, for The Theatre Institute’s Al-Khoroog Aan Al-Nass (Extempore, or, literally, Going Outside the Text), and Sameh Osman, for the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Shakespeare’s Women.

Best Dramaturge: Tarek Al-Dweiri and Nashwa Muharram for Al-Hanager’s Zombie and the Ten Sins

Best Lyrics: Ahmed Atta for Beer Al-Saqaya (Drinking Well), by the Matrouh Governorate National Troupe

Best Choreography: jointly to Monadil Antar, for Al-Bassaseen (The Informers or Spies), and Sherine Hegazi, for Ya Sem (Go to Hell).

Best Stage Design: Ahmed Hosni, for The Song of the Lusitanian Bogey, by the troupe of the Faculty of Engineering at Port Said University.

Best Lighting Design: Basil Mamdouh, for The Lower Depths, by the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University.

Best Costume Design: Amira Saber, for another version of The Lower Depths, by the troupe of the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.

Best Music: Camillo, for Zombie and the Ten Sins.

Best Poster Design: Amr Hosni, for Zombie and the Ten Sins.

Best Leading Actress: Hagar Afifi, for her part in The Theatre Institute’s Al-Khoroog Aan Al-Nass (Extempore, or, literally, Going Outside the Text).

Best Supporting Actress: Fatma Hassan, for her role in Al-Qayd (Shackles), by the Anaconda theatre troupe in Qena.

Best Rising Actress: Iman Ghoneim, for her role in the Youth Theatre’s Gamila (Beauty).

Best Leading Actor: Ahmed Osman, for his part in the Youth Theatre’s Al-Fanar (The Lighthouse).

Best Supporting Actor: went jointly to Ahmed Magid, for his part in The Theatre Institute’s Al-Khoroog Aan Al-Nass, and Mohamed Wael for his role in the University of Tanta’s The Threepenny Opera.

Best Rising Actor: Ahmed Saad Wali, for his part in Drama Al-Shahateen (A Beggars’ Drama) by the Victor independent troupe.

The Jury awarded ten Certificates of Merit to the following:

Nahla Morsi, for the set design of Beer Al-Saqaya (Drinking Well), by the Matrouh Governorate National Troupe.

Mohamed Sabri, for the set design of The Lower Depths by the troupe of the Faculty of Engineering, Cairo University.

Hani Abdel-Nasser, for the music of The Good Person.

Ghada Kamal, for the music of The Lower Depths, by the Faculty of Engineering at Ain Shams University.

Heba Al-Attar, for her role in the Bibliotheca Alexandrina’s Shakespeare’s Women.

Sherif Al-Dessouki, for his role in the Cultural Development Fund’s Saheb El-Semuw (His Highness).

Riham Abou Bakr, for her role in Al-Asheeqah (The Mistress), an adaptation of Georges Schehadé’s L’Emigré de Brisbane, by the staff and workers of the Continental City Stars Hotel.

Naglaa Yunis, for her role in Al-Talia Theatre’s The Good Person.

Foad Youssef, for his role in Al-Khoroog Aan Al-Nass.

Islam Ali, for his role in the Alsun theatre group’s version of Friedrich Durrenmatt’s An Angel Comes to Babylon.

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