MoneyMaker Culture of the Week: The Prophet
Award-winning playwright Hassan Abdulrazzak's tale of middle-class struggle against an Egyptian revolution
Art can be at its most ambitious and powerful when it seeks to run a close personal narrative alongside a world-changing event, giving scope for both delicate and broad brushes of the artist’s brush against their chosen canvas. Theatre is notoriously difficult to successfully blend the two, often succeeding more with the interpersonal relationship story, and not conveying the urgency and scale of the society-rocking backdrop.
Controversial playwright, Hassan Abdulrazzak isn’t one to sit back and not take risks, and has attempted to challenge the convention with his new play, The Prophet, set against the revolutionary events of Tahrir Square last year.
Hisham is a former journalist with a conscience living in downtown Cairo, seeking international fame and fortune with his novel, frustrated by what he perceives to be external forces holding back his personal success. Meanwhile, his wife is a head engineer at a telecomms company, responsible for the Egyptian mobile phone network.
On the 28th January, a date that will be forever etched into the Arab world, Hisham declines joining the revolution he privately supports in favour of attending a meeting with a high flying agent, whilst his wife has her own personal dilemma of whether to support the cause or agree to her bosses’ demands of switching off the mobile network and stopping the flow of communication around Egypt.
As their personal struggles ebb and flow, so does the swelling power shift in the square, leading to increasing fear and paranoia across both narratives, and bringing out fundamental change in both their personal lives, and the country they are proud to call home.
Abdulrazzak ruffled some feathers with his debut play, Baghdad Wedding five years ago, and he shows here that once again he is happy to boldly move his pieces around the board to create tension to reveal truth. And, in the same way that post-Mubarak Egypt is full of hope and uncertainty about the future, so Abdulrazzak builds to a conclusion that leaves an thoughtful level of ambiguity over the characters’ tomorrow.
The Prophet runs until July 21st at The Gate Theatre, London.