La Cantatrice attend …

On PsychOpera , an experimental performance directed by Adham Hafez and performed by Nevine Alouba, part of 2 B continued Festival & Theatre and Dance Laboratory – Cairo 13-18 January 2011

Trapped in her agony, in her fears mixed with anticipation, the opera singer is waiting ..

Attracted by magnetic invisible strings, the audience were holding their breath, anticipating, manipulated by the provocative sharp electronic musical tones…

In a brilliant set , Adham hafez, the director, invited us to enter the restless creative tortured mind of an Opera Singer who is getting ready to enter on stage. These critical three seconds that normally precede the singer entrance on stage, before (s)he face  her/his audience (this absolute mysterious mass of strangers waiting there in the dark to judge him/her) were stretched to a whole 30 minutes , where we were invited to get into the cantatrice restless mind.

Nevine Alouba Performing

Between two layers of reality represented by the two transparent curtains, we see her trapped in her subconscious mind between the two worlds: the unconscious and conscious ones, we see her there, like a specter in her white dress waiting …

Thoughts, visuals, tones are interrupted and mixed up with long suffering opera singing notes

she is there standing behind the transparent curtain projecting her shadow (a marvelous scenographic effect) but yet , she is there trapped , ready and waiting ….

Finally the delivery approaches and the restless mind spits out his last words

My mind sits on me

and I become its very tired animal

you seek union

well enough to last long

but when I can , I can’t, I can’t

but when I can’t , I can’t, I can’t when I can’t

your thoughts are inaccessible

my thoughts are inaccessible

my thoughts are even inaccessible to me

it is inevitable to speak

but it confuses me

Your mind sits on me

and you become its very tired animal

I seek union

well enough to last long

but when I can , I can’t, I can’t

but when I can’t , I can’t, I can’t when I can’t

My thoughts are inaccessible

Your thoughts are inaccessible

Your thoughts are even inaccessible to me

it is inevitable to speak

but it confuses me

Was she addressing her unknown audience or simply her self? In a final act, the curtain opens, and here she is, glowing, in a majestic gesture salutes us, and starts her mute performance

But aren’t we all the same? Aren’t we all performers on the life stage, Deep inside, aren’t we agonizing over and over from our restless mind, Aren’t we shaping and reshaping ourselves according to the exterior situations, memorizing the roles of these different personas that we prepare to project? Aren’t we all waiting to perform?

When the Artist has a distinctive position: Review of Emel Mathlouthy Concert at Al Genaina Theater

Holding my long dress tail in my hands, holding my head high, and putting my earphones wishing her song will never stop vibrating in my head. Humming, enchanted, and in trance this was my mood when I left Emel Mathlouthi concert, which took place at El Genaina Theater Thursday 3rd of September, in Ramadan program featuring young independent women singers form the Arab world) .

Way far from being monotone, her voice varies all the time, strong and wild expressing the best the freedom that she sings. Freedom, peace, love, this is all about her. Petite in her summer red dress, Emel came on stage barefoot. Spontaneous performer, she gave her audience that she enjoys singing and enteracting with the music even more than being on stage. Unconditional freedom she sings. And accordingly she choose a very well prepared program, she sung all her Arabic and traditional Tunisian songs (none of her world songs repertoire), and she was keen to please the Egyptian audience by choosing three songs from Cheikh Imam repertoire.

Not the well-known songs for Imam which will provoke a guaranteed long applause from the audience but she choose carefully which match perfectly the general theme of her songs and her concert: Resistance, and call for Freedom.

Therefore the concert was entertaining and inspiring.

This is only happen when an artist has a rich culture and a distinctive position. Way far to compare Emel Mathlouthy concert to her peer Jordanian/Iraqi singer Macadi Nahas, who performed on the same stage one week earlier.  Originally singing traditional songs from Iraq, Macadi already produced two Albums “Kan yama Kan” and “Khilkhal”. Although she spent over 70% from her concert singing Fayrouse Songs, and ended up with “sahar el Layali” song, obviously trying to gain  the acceptance and the applause of the Egyptian audience, and play it safe! The result was a concert with no spirit nor identity.

To listen to Emel Mathlouthy check http://www.myspace.com/amelmathlouthi

On the importance of being an Arab … On the importance of Being Ahmed el Attar

I attended yesterday the play of Ahmed el Attar, “on the importance of being an Arab”, taking place at Rawabet Theater from

31st of July to 2nd of August, and I thought sharing my feedback.

From the “mise en scene” perspective, the play is a really good one, where Ahmed el Attar got his reputation of being a professional dramaturge and director I guess.

In front of a big screen , where a presentation of his love letters, army exempted certificate, some parts of his erotic writings are flipping , el Attar sit there, performing a long extended and uninterrupted phone-call with his friends, his father and his girl friend, soon becoming his wife.

Good lights, good synchronization between the video behind, lights, music and performance!

The music composed and produced by Hassan Khan (well know visual artist). was following the rhythm and tempo of a “shaabi” popular Egyptian music. The soundtracks change in a tempo of their own. Under the hidden crescendo  effect, I was tensed by anticipation, the music has a really significant independent identity in this show  (not sure if this can be taken as  a positive or negative point)

But ….

Seriously I hated the play! At a certain moment, the question “what’s the point!” popped up!, I have attended before plays which were completely pointless! But I was too captured to think about it!

I think if you decided to bring the audience to that close intimate position to your personal life, you have to capture them and give them a good reason to be, and the “expressionless performance” of el Attar, was really annoying, although it was intentional, because you definitely can’t stay 40min with no expression unintentionally, so i can’t say it was a bad performance!

Something else, “m’a tappe sur les nerfs” as we say in French (made me really nervous), in a certain moment of his monologue, Attar criticized the people who made Arts, a luxury for the bourgeoisie, ok but please someone explains to me what kind of play he was presenting yesterday, it’s not because he was speaking Arabic and put a kind off “sha3bi” music that’s mean that this is not `a “bourgeois Play”. Definitely the show wasnot reachable for everyone! And claiming the play “on the importance of being Arab” didn’t made me think that Attar is an Arab example, that can be taken as a general case or a normal Arab one. It was just all about “The importance of being Ahmed al Attar”