It is no secret that the performance art scene in Egypt has been quite lacking in the past decade or so, with theatre in particular suffering the most.
With very few exceptions, such as the efforts of ‘Masrah Masr’ (which was a production considered by a number of critics back in its infancy as the resurrection of theatre as a whole), and Mohamed Sobhy’s “Madinet Sonbol” (which hosted a production of Naguib el-Rihani’s ‘Ghazal El-Banat’ that garnered much praise as well as an original production called ‘Khebetna’ that was a rather disappointing experience for me) and a couple other smaller productions, Egyptian theatre had failed to supply audiences with high-end, elaborate and genuinely entertaining plays that they so desperately craved.
Why? Well, simply put, producers of such gigantic productions often try to avoid them unless they are a guaranteed success because, unlike cinema, there isn’t always a blockbuster formula you can use. That means that unless you chose to adapt an already well-known play that automatically sells or unless you plaster a big-shot actor’s name on your posters (backed up with actual talent), the probability of reaching a maximized profit is small and simply not enough to be an incentive to start said production.
(This doesn’t mean it is impossible though, as “The Day Song Was Killed” or “Youm An Qotel Al-Ghnaa” directed by Tamer Karam garnered enormous success and praise during its 2017-2018 run on both Cairo and Alexandria stages and I personally would love to see it again.)
What Cairo Show did was exactly that; they gathered an astonishing cast with very well-known and respected names in the industry under the name of a living acting legend, Yehia El-Fakharany.
Not only that, they also decided to adapt one the world most-recognized plays, one that’s embedded in the minds of billions of people around the world, Shakespeare’s King Lear. And with the obvious gap in the arts community, as well as the absence of similar adaptations, it was bound to make a buzz and sell tickets.
The Actual Review:
As soon as you set foot on the grounds of the theatre and after you pass the security check, you are greeted by the welcoming actors dressed in periodic gowns and dresses that set you right in the mood for the Elizabethan-era set tragedy, in addition to the production’s main theme made by active producer Mostafa El-Halawany, which also play till doors are closed and then throughout the perrormance. For me, that added lot to the whole entrance reception and the general atmosphere.
I cannot even begin on how outstanding the performances were; some are undeniably solid, others impressive, but a number bordered on absolute magnificence.
Let’s discuss it one by one:
Yehia El-Fakharany is obviously the titular character King Lear and he fully embodies it in both the high humor points and the lower, much dramatic ones.
Rania Farid Shawki, Reham Abdel Ghafour and Heba Magdy play Lear’s three daughters Goneril, Regan and Cordelia respectively. Rania shinned the brightest as Goneril, the eldest daughter who first turns on her father, especially in her scenes shared with her loyal servant Oswald and her on-stage husband, Nasser Seif.
Faroukh El-Fishawy as the Earl of Gloucester was nothing short of phenomenal; the way he acted out his grief and sorrow truly resonated with me. This was probably my favourite performance of his, ever.
His two sons, Edgar and Edmound, were played by Ahmed Azmi and Nedal El-shafai respectively and they did a terrific job. Azmi took my breath away during his first scene as Tom the beggar/lunatic and he was simply a pleasure to watch.
El-Shafai, who is known for his antagonist characters, was perhaps the perfect fit as he delivered his monologues extremely well. I did, however, notice that he often slipped into his common tongue instead of proper Arabic but I’m not sure whether it was intentional or not.
Ahmed Fouad Selim was the Earl of Kent; he was obviously rather good but nothing out of the ordinary for him.
I also loved the actor who played the fool but I cannot find his name anywhere, so if you do know him, please message us or comment below.
Production, Music and Costumes:
The set was nothing short of lavish; it was pretty impressive and a joy to observe with the 17th century decor of the castles. The costumes looked like they were stolen out of time and the props were as grand and stunning.
There was a certain war scene which was just perfectly executed in a way I had never seen before, so kudos to the director Tamer Karam, executive producer Magdy El-Hawary and the production team.
On the other hand, there were obvious sound and mic issues throughout the performance which was rather distracting (and annoying) at times.
It’s obvious that I wholeheartedly loved this production of King Lear and I’d probably want to see it again. Frankly, I’d love to see more Shakespearean plays on Egyptian theatres, maybe next time we’ll have a new production of the Scottish play Macbeth, or perhaps that of the Denmark prince Hamlet? Let us know in the comments which play you would love to see in the future and with whom as the main actor!
*THIS REVIEW IS NOT PAID FOR NOR SPONSERED BY CAIRO SHOW PRODUCTION*