One Night of a Thousand and One Nights by bayram al-Tunsi By Alyaa Sadek
Based on one of the tales of One Night of a Thousand and One Nights, Layla men Alf Layla wa Layla is a fantasy-fiction story written by late Egyptian poet Bayram Al-Tunsi in the year 1920. After a six-year gap, the iconic Egyptian National Theatre has finally reopened in August 2015, with this brilliantly directed piece. It has seen huge success and attendance, making it one of the highest achieving revenues in the history of the Egyptian Theatre, grossing up to EGP 1 million.
Attending the play was a one-of-a-kind experience. As I arrived I felt hopeful again, astounded and proud to see the cleanliness and organization, from the ticketing to the seating. A beautiful entrance garden was elegantly lit, lifting me into a pleasant mood; the main hall was grand, with beautifully crafted red and gold Islamic motifs, and a massive chandelier suspended impressively from the ceiling. As we waited for the curtain to be raised the energy in the room was electric, clearly showing signs of high expectations for the play.
Directed by Mohsen Helmi, this heartwarming production blends both humor and depth in a rich two hours of pure entertainment. The starring role of Shehata was played by Yehia El-Fakharany, whose performance captivated the audience throughout the play. The rest of the cast included Egyptian actress Heba Magdy (Nagaf), a favorite, supported by singer Mohamed Mohsen, actor Lotfy Labib as well as Salma Gharib, Diaa Abdelkhalek, and the National Theatre performers.
The play revolves around a beggar named Shehata, who pretends to be blind. His wife abandons him and their daughter Nagaf to be with another man who also takes his son from him. Throughout the story, Shehata plans on taking revenge for his wife and son. Eventually, he finds himself in the palace of that man and kills him and his son. His daughter Nagaf marries the Khalifa who loved her in secret, disguised as a gardener. Although the plot was simple, the level of direction was flawless, resulting in an outstanding production. Dancers were synchronized, and the music by Egyptian composer, Ahmed Sedki was poetic and melodic leaving the audience emotionally charged. The décor was diverting and detailed, and the costumes were cheerful, colorful and well devised.
It is truly stirring to see that the National Theatre is back and strong again with talented and dedicated Egyptian artists that are committed to bringing it back to life. It seems that One Night of a Thousand and One Nights is a fresh start, prompting confidence again between the audience and the theatre.