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A Place Under the Sun: To Be or Not to Be? The Question of the “Fringe” (1990)

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At the first meeting on August 23rd, things began to snowball. What Minha hadn’t bargained for was the existence of a strong and militant, if politically and artistically immature, underground theatre movement of young and ardent self-supporting offshoots of the university, state regional theatres, manned by talented former students and amateurs, lacking legal status. They came in droves, flaunting fanciful names and clamoring for recognition and the right to participate. The word had certainly gone round: the Jugglers, the Loonies, the Visionaries, the Rebels, the Luminaries, the Sudanese Drummers, the Protesters and the Apollonians, not to mention the more sober Warsha, Movement, Encounter and Theatre Club groups — they were all there, like genies late loosed from their bottles!

“Where have they all sprung from?” asked Minha. I must admit that I too was a little taken aback though, for I had known of the existence of some such troupes, and had seen a few of their performances at some foreign cultural centers, and at the GEBO’s Book Fair the previous January. However, I hadn’t counted on there being so many!

We were no fools. Some of these flamboyant appellations, we suspected, must have been thought up on the spur of the moment; nonetheless, their overwhelming physical presence was a solid fact. There was no denying that a substantial body of theatrical talent, however amorphous and submerged, did exist outside the stuffy official establishments and needed an outlet and some form of care and nurturing. The theatrical organization in Egypt, however, in its present condition, is not qualified to give such care. Indeed, if these incipient fringe troupes are to realize their potential and bloom into a vigorous alternative theatre, on the western model, the state will have to revise its whole policy vis-a-vis the arts and its anachronistic machinery.

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