3 July 2011
Recently I decided to honour an invitation I received from the Coptic Orthodox Youth Bishopric to attend a theatrical festival at the bishopric’s al-Salam Theatre. The theme of the festival was “A Cheer for Work”.
As a Muslim theatre critic, I did not know what to expect. I had no high expectations; in fact I believed I would see something more like a school play. I was pleasantly surprised, however. The young participant men and women began their show with none less than inspiration from last January’s Tahrir Square. On both sides of the stage they displayed banners strongly expressing their thoughts and sentiments, both in graphics and paintings. I realised they were on their way to celebrate art—all seven forms of art which begin with architecture and run through to theatre—as a tributary for building character.
Various arts were represented during the evening. There was a solo appearance by Magdy Latif, who has a full, melodious voice; as well as performances by choirs from churches in Cairo. The choir of the church of the Holy Virgin in Ezbet al-Nakhl, Cairo sang “A Cheer for Work”. The lyics went:
“We shall make Egypt a paradise,
Our people shall challenge the impossible…
O Lord bless our Egypt,
The land of work and miracles.”
Expressive modern dance (or the body motion performance) was choreographed by Mohamed and Dhiaa’, while the set was designed by Osiris and Menas Gamil. The Church of the Virgin Mary and the Angel in Mansoura put on a mime show, while a troupe from St George’s Church in Ain Shams performed a dynamic dance. The show was directed by John Milad, and the paintings were by Emad Lamie, Hisham Samir, Emad Farouq, and Menas Gamil.
Mamdouh Eissa, Amal Waguih and Bassem Saad presented short documentaries.
The show was attended by the Minister of Culture Emad Eddin Abu-Ghazi, who said he would like to host a repeat performance in one of the State theatres. Among others attending were press and literary figures such as journalist Louis Greiss, critic Girguis Shukri, writer Karam al-Naggar, poet Fatema Naaout, the head of the new theatre house, Sayed Mohamed Ali, and a large public audience. Everyone there was warmly welcomed by Anba Moussa, the Bishop of Youth.
As the evening drew to a close I realised it would live in my heart a very long time.