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This is not a play: ‘Tahrir Monologues’ continues

“Shoot and make us the last cowardly generation [in Egypt],” begins the two-hour  “Tahrir Monologues." In the performance — it is not a play, according to the event’s flyers — 20 young people act out and recount their stories from the first 18 days of the revolution.  

The performers narrate their personal takes on those eventful days: the fear that filled their hearts, the pride and the humiliation, the passiveness of some, the determination of others and the sense of victory that followed when President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February. This is the third season for the “Tahrir Monologues” since it started in May. In this short time, the monologues and the storytelling format gained popularity, drawing packed houses for the most recent performances at the Rawabet and Jesuit theaters.

“Tahrir Monologues” is an emotionally strong performance. The monologues are sincere and moving, touching on themes and emotions most Egyptians can relate to; many of the audience filling Rawabet on Monday night had similar experiences or knew friends who got injured or killed during the revolution.

Technically, the monologues are a bit weak. The performers are amateurs and many of them struggle with projection and articulation. In a small theater like Rawabet, a well-trained performer would not need a microphone.

The start of the performance is extremely low-energy, with no real enthusiasm invested in the monologues. It does pick up vigor slowly though, before it falls again with the audience getting bored after the first hour has passed.

Throughout the two hours, it’s easy to tell the true, heartfelt stories from the fictional recitations, even when the latter are performed well.

All this takes place with a nearly empty stage as a backdrop. A few banners hang from the grill, featuring Egyptian faces from the revolution, among which are the famous protester sporting a cooking pot on his head for protection, as well as young men shouting and chanting, women screaming and smiling, a bearded man preaching and other snippets from the scene in Tahrir Square. A sedate, sad tune plays in the background.

From time to time, the performers interact with audience members, engaging them by distributing food, drinks, paper masks and other goodies that were handed out during protests in the square.

A two-hour performance of monologues might not be the best format, but overall “Tahrir Monologues” is creative and does not fall under the category of overrated theatrical and artistic performances that simply use the revolution to gain viewership. It is a heartfelt experiment that just seems to need more theatrical guidance.

"Tahrir Monologues" is performed daily at 8:30 pm until 18 November at Rawabet Theater: 3 Hussein al-Memar St., off Mahmoud Bassiouny Street, Downtown, Cairo.

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