Play poster - Source: The National Theater official Facebook page
CAIRO - 18 July 20017: In an amazing performance that revives memories of the magical ‘One Thousand and One Nights’ [known in English as the Arabian Nights], the National Theater, in its own right, presents a musical play based on a script written by Bayram al-Tunisi in 1930.
Decoration, Ballet, music, songs, plot, love story, costumes, casting take the viewers-for two hours- back in time and nostalgia to an era only read about, live on stage in front of their own eyes. That is the impression that the audience has had for three years. The duration of performance so far and the huge success will guarantee its continuity.
The incidents take place in Baghdad at a time of turmoil a caliph died and the crown prince, played by the brilliant singer and actor Mohamed Mohsen, is in the process of taking over power. With all the hopes and wishes that come with a new ruler, the new caliph is greeted by the public in the market place. Mohsen has a magical voice that takes us back to the era of great singers.
The main drama line is about a beggar faking blindness played by the megastar Yehia el-Fakharani, adding his own touch to the character with the funny bits that bring pure laughter to the hearts t of the audience. He stumbles on an old enemy Gowan, a head of a gang who kidnapped his wife some years earlier, got a child with her then the child was lost and he is looking for him all over the empire. The role is played by Youssef Ismail and a high caliber dual in performance between the two stars takes place.
The story lines are many, the caliph who disguises as the gardener’s son and falls in love with the beggar’s daughter; the evil Wizir or minister of the Caliph who turns out to be the lost son of the gangster; the Wizir’s wife played cleverly by Salma Gharib who expresses the feelings of a cheated wife, falls for the beggar when he is hosted in the Wizir’s palace to convince him to murder the new Caliphe who is limiting the powers of the evil one. Then the story does not go for the pitfall of cheating on her husband, while the audience root for that forbidden love to take place. When a good woman is married to an evil man she gets the sympathy to love and be loved…simply a shot at happiness. Salma Gharib manages to cry in real tears then smiles and laughs convincingly on stage in less than a minute. Talent of this caliber is to be recognized.
The joyful environment of the theater, the music and the beautiful dances performed by the ballet dancers’ boys and girls, the bright colors of their costumes, the comfortable designs for the dancers and the actors and the story lines keep the audience happy and interested.
The evil characters are not hated, the good characters are cunning, greedy and funny. The secondary roles of the guards, the merchants, the maids are a great addition to the play, future stars are in the making such as the Wizir’s wife maid Meska played by Hadil Badry, whose appearance brings smiles and joy; or Mohamed Azayzi the corrupt prison warden, who organizes the escape operation fooled convincingly by the beggar, is promising talent.
This play brings back the good old days of the theater. The passion and dedication of the actors are applauded by the audience applause every night. The director Mohsen Helmy managed to orchestrate a very talented group of performers in a script taken from the old rich repertoire of the ageless Egyptian theater. Bayram al-Tunsi (1893-1961) is an Egyptian poet with Tunisian roots, He wrote satirical ballads critical of the British occupation and the monarchy. He was exiled from 1919-1938. But returned and got an Egyptian citizenship in 1954 and continued to publish political poetry.
The play is on its way to be performed in Morocco, but it is a certain thumb up for the new season.