Re-Act: Photo Publication by Noon documenting their project Hara TV 2

Re-Act

Re-Act is a publication by Noon Creative Enterprise to use 50 photos of audience reactions from their play Hara TV 2 that toured Egypt. I was commissioned by Noon to write the opening statement to the publication which launched in March 2014

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Hara TV 2: Keep it Real (Kolo Beyetla3 del Ghaseel) engages people all over Egypt

Traveling across fourteen governerates all around Egypt: from Alexandria to Sohag to Qena to Aswan and going east to Ismailia and Port-said among other places, Hara TV 2: Keep it real (Kolo Beyetla3 fel Ghaseel), Noon Creative Enterprise’s latest project hosts 55 performances on streets, in youth and cultural centres, and in schools and universities.

Hara TV 2: Keep it real (Kolo Beyetla3 fel Ghaseel) could sound like an unconventional title for a play. Nonetheless that makes complete sense as this production, which toured the country in the second half of 2013, has nothing conventional about it.

Set as a television show, three actors Sherine Hegazy, Ahmed El-Sawy and Mohamed Samy Negm present a 30 minute performance to the audience as part of the television programme, and within this programme they incorporate skits that deal with social issues that potentially affect the audiences wherever the tour takes them in spite of the obvious audience diversity.

What sets Hara TV apart from regular theatre is the point of interactivity; the purpose of the performance is to host a discussion afterwards. It is not regular art per se that is meant to ask questions, evoke an emotional response and inspire; Hara TV offers a platform for discourse for the audience to continue being part of the play’s events after the actors are done.

As the actors finish their scene, Nada Sabet, Artistic Director of Noon, takes the stage with her handy waist bag and microphone, and invites the audience to reflect on what they have seen. She asks the members of the audience to recall the issues Hara TV presented, and once a basic level of understanding is reached she, along with the actors, who are still in their characters as Hara TV producers, host a discussion from these experiences shared on stage.

Targeting youth between the ages 15 to 20, these performances invite the youth to be part of the show, however, bringing their real stories and suggestions into the equation. While the performance itself merely lasts half an hour, the experience takes 1.5 hours to complete, and in this time the audience become the main actors in the experience through these meaningful conversations they have regarding the piece.

In a society where there is very little space to host these meaningful conversations neither in schools, universities, in youth centres at home or among friends – and a dire need for these spaces to achieve any sort of social development – Hara TV hosts these small interventions to give people around the country the opportunity to really vent and discuss their issues.

Hara TV 2 chooses four topics: domestic violence against children, double standards towards girls and women in society, romantic relationships between men and women and finally discrimination based on religion, exterior appearance or race.

While these topics are limited compared to the many social ills that exist in Egyptian society, they definitely touch upon focal points that could potentially open a conversation on other issues that relate to them even in the periphery.

The main problem with the issues presented is they are so embedded in the culture that people often overlook the need to even address them. Smacking children as a form of discipline is a norm, so is making fun of someone if they are different that the expectation of society in anyway. Women get bossed around by everyone around them while men get a larger freedom of choice and mobility, and in romantic relationships girls are expected to be nagging and jealous and boys to be dominating and bossy towards their significant other.

As these topics are put in the show, in a simple, relatable and sometimes even funny way – it forces the audience to take a look at themselves somehow – admitting to these issues and suggesting solutions. However, most of the time the solutions do not appear right then and there. One can only hope the Hara TV experience would offer a new set of questions that could potentially reach these solutions. It certainly is a unique attempt to help formulate these questions that will continue to erupt in different corners of the country.

In this photo book, Noon Creative Enterprise invites us for a short trip around Egypt to see faces and reactions from the audiences who attended the different performances and moments of their interaction with each other and the team.

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