Disappearing Theatre: A Play About Palestinians in London, a Scottish Novel Adapted in Cairo

Over at 972Mag, Christa Blackmon writes about Camouflagea play by Ahmed Masoud that ran for one night only at Amnesty International’s London headquarters, and at the Times Literary Supplement, Raph Cormack writes about an Egyptian play, adapted from a Scottish novel, that may never appear:

Camouflage is a one-man play written by Palestinian, possibly-switched-at-birth author Ahmed Masoud andstarring British-Egyptian actor James El-Sharawy. It ran for one night only, to mark the Nakba, and are a collection of stories of teenagers frustrated by exile, occupation, restriction, and deprivation.

The character Zeid, Blackmon writes, “cannot stand the tight restrictions on social interactions” put in place by Hamas authorities, yet is also himself a carrier of his elders’ prejudices, “mimicking his father’s classist disgust for refugees from other villages in Gaza.”

The play Haneen, meanwhile, which will optimistically be staged in Cairo, is based on the Alasdair Gray novel 1982, Janine, which a 2011 retrospective calls “one of the most underrated, most stupidly unread novels in the world.”

A team, Raph Cormack writes, that includes “Sara Shaarawi and Henry Bell, the director Seif Abdel Salaam and the actor Karim Mantawi have been working to turn this quasi-pornographic Scottish monologue into a one-man Egyptian play called Haneen, partly supported by a grant from Creative Scotland.”

They have been working on the production, and intended to have a private performance of the work-in-progress in May. “They asked a number of venues in Cairo about staging it,” Cormack writes. “The first responses were positive. They were advised not to call it a private showing, as that would attract attention, but something low-key like an ‘open rehearsal.’ However, after the state of emergency was declared in April, no one was willing to touch it.”

The work-in-progress, which seems compelling in Cormack’s description, was eventually staged in a private apartment. “Logistically speaking, this makeshift space might not have been the first choice but the claustrophobic atmosphere felt like an apt way to witness one man’s long, dark night of the soul.”

As to whether the finished product will get an airing, it’s still unclear:

Several members of the audience cracked jokes about a police bust of the private performance. This small team have put a lot of time and effort into making an innovative piece of drama, which may never be shown to the public in Egypt.

Read Cormack’s review of the work-in-progress-in-an-apartment, and Blackmon’s of a staging at the Amnesty HQ.

Also, if you haven’t seen the Spring 2017 issue of Arab Stages, it’s a tribute to Egyptian theatre critic Nehad Selaiha (1945-2017).