Before the Revolution
- Gareth K Vile
- 26 August 2019
This article is from 2019
A terse description of pregnant atmosphere
Ahmed Al Attar's Before the Revolution offers a tough depiction of the atmosphere before the Egyptian revolution of 2011. A collision of soap opera stories, sermons, football songs and incidental details from the streets of Cairo, it immediately throws itself into a violence, inconsistent collage of voices and history. From relating various acts of political violence to the arguments of a couple on a street corner, it builds to a cacophony of competing ideas and beliefs.
There is little space for either traditional theatricality – delivered by a man and a woman standing on a bed of nails – or context. This impressionistic duologue races through the perspectives, rarely pausing but always identifying trenchant details and apparently disconnected elements that share an aura of repressed tension. The specifics of Egyptian politics occasionally emerge from the chaos, notably a series of jokes about the president but this febrile atmosphere has an almost abstract quality, a gathering of clouds before the storm erupts.
The delivery is often impassive – a little depth is given to various characters, but the listing of disasters or political assassinations are told in a disinterested tone, hinting that the revolution had been brewing for far longer than had been realises. Hard-hitting and restless, it falters due to the complexity of the subject, which is lost in the constant and speedy narrative style, and the simplicity of the presentation, which deadens the ferocious of the message. Yet this is a bold and provocative take on the mechanics of political upheaval.
Summerhall, run ended.