text: Olena Afanasyeva
photo: Max Revega,
We will never forget two Maidans in Ukraine. Egypt had 25 ones. The biggest mass meetings took place on Tahrir – the central square of Cairo and they were the same bloody, as well as in Ukraine. What did they give our countries? How do the two different people perceive democracy? And are they so different actually? The personal view of the events in Cairo and the parallel with the Ukrainian realities were presented by the Totem Center and the Kherson Branch of the Sociological Association of Ukraine on April, 4 in Kherson during the premiere of the experimental play “The Runaway” in a format of testimonial theater.
The feature of testimonial theater is that characters play themselves. Maxim Revega, who had lived in Cairo for three years and for who Egypt became the second motherland and Maxim Afanasyev, who had stayed there only for 10 days, told about their impressions on the impromptu stage, and it allowed to compare a look inside and the one outside. Outside Egypt remains a country attractive for tourists, however, they visit only world-wide resorts for vacations and rarely visit the capital of the country (and no more than for 1-2 days just to visit museums). The real life of Cairo is quite different. Maxim Revega departed from Cairo when mass protests grew into continuous chaos, intolerance, marauding. One of his friends was murdered, when protecting the empty office from marauders. People who are indeed proud of the country and proudly say “I am an Egyptian” required retirement of the President Hosni Mubarak, but other requirements were very general like craving for better life. Maxim tells that till now democracy in the country is perceived as a variety of permissiveness, anarchy, and “the pharaoh in the head» lives in every Egyptian.
The performance was interesting foremost for the atmosphere of trust, which was set at once between the acting persons and the audience. Actually, the audience included the participants of the performance: they tried on typical Egyptian clothes, heard Maxim Revega’s speech in beautiful Arabic (something was even comprehensive due to his intonation and gestures), knew what was a Mohammedan prayer, even reproduced one of actions on Tahrir Square, when people hold up red cards with the requirements of the president’s resignation.
The parallels to Ukraine became obvious after showing a fragment of the Egyptian TV-show which demonstrated in an ironic way how Russia and America tried to attract Egypt on their sides. The final massage was that the country must search for its own way.
The funniest moment was a fragment of a modern film which was the main source of awareness of Egyptians about Ukraine. The main “bad person” of this film is an Egyptian thief who began his criminal career as a drug dealer and in the end won election in Ukraine and took a position of the president of the country.
The new format of the play seems to be very interesting. After the play the young audience asked a lot of important and serious questions – for example, about religious and ethnic tolerance, women’s rights, freedom of speech. They said that even didn’t expect that “testimonial theatre” could be so captivating. Consequently testimonial theater in Kherson has the future! The next presentation is in progress and it promises to be even more actual and provoking.