Tuesday February 27th, 2024
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Kenoma Theatre Company Presents 'Ebny' Show at Rawabet Art Space

Set in an immersive U-shape with the audience surrounding the stage, the play is a culturally nuanced Egyptian adaptation of Yasmine Reza’s ‘God of Carnage’.

Patrick Davies

Rawabet Art Space is set to host the independent Kenoma Theatre Company and their production ‘Ebny’, directed by Moustafa Khalil. The play is an Egyptian adaptation of French playwright Yasmina Reza’s ‘God of Carnage', first published in 2008.

The play tells the story of four parents from two separate families who are thrown together after one of their sons assaults the son of the other family. The story begins in a civilised manner, but as the story develops, so does our understanding of each character’s true intentions and motives, as the adult characters revert to almost childlike behaviour.

Kenoma Theatre Company is known for its Egyptian adaptations of classic international plays. “We’re proudly self-funded and we make sure the art is the first thing that represents us before anything else,” Khalil tells CairoScene. ‘Ebny’ is the first Kenoma production to be translated and adapted by the cast members and director themselves, aiming not only for a simple translation but to incorporate Egyptian cultural elements into the entire play, from the script to the physical set. “The past 12 years have led Kenoma and myself to this point,” Khalil says.

“The process we went through with the script, adapting this wonderful play to an Egyptian context, was very special,” lead actor Ahmed Radwan adds. “Everyone took their own character and personally worked on it.” Radwan has worked on multiple productions of Egyptian adaptations with director Khalil, such as ‘Al Makhzan’, an adaptation of Quentin Tarantino’s ‘Reservoir Dogs’. This was when Khalil truly began his mission “to produce plays that remind audiences of the power of theatre compared to film,” where people get a live front row seat to all the action, gore and all, unfiltered by the film camera’s ‘middlemanning’.

Even so, ‘Ebny’ represents something “totally new”, particularly for Radwan. “It was about finding a real reference to Egyptian culture that would carry the same meaning that the original has for French or American audiences,” he explains.

As well as the new territory of culturally nuanced script adaptation, Rawabet Art Space also experimented with the arrangement of the stage. Instead of having the audience be completely separated, the production allows the audience to surround the stage on three sides in a U-shaped arrangement. “I don’t think anyone but Moustafa could have pulled it off,” Radwan says. “Although the U-shape idea sounded straightforward in theory, the execution of it from the director’s perspective was very challenging.” The new arrangement requires careful consideration of direction to immerse the audience in the story, matching the immersion of the stage amongst the audience.

Challenges of directing a play with a U-shaped audience aside, the concept also presents plenty of obstacles for the design of the set itself. Gone is the predictable, singular direction of viewing; audiences will watch actors move around the set from 270 degrees. Set designer Youssef Armanios transformed this from a challenge to overcome into a highlight of the play. “He was like magic to us,” says Radwan. “I didn’t know about his skills, but he came along and turned the entire set into a real home. Everyone was asking ‘who made the set?’ The man is an artist, and he lived his life that way. He left it on a good note, in terms of his art.”

Tragically, since the original production, Armanios passed away; he will not be able to witness the magic that his work brings to audiences. “The loss of Youssef was a very significant moment for us, for all of his friends,” Radwan says. “It almost felt as if this man came to this play just to do a wonderful job, only to leave. It was a great gesture from him, from God.”

The play will be showing at the Rawabet Art Space February 9th, 10th, 13th and 14th. For more details on the show, check out @kenomatheatrecompany and @rawabetartspace on Instagram. You can find tickets to the show at the TicketsMarche website.

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