El-Warsha, Tides of Night

Review in Issue 9-3 | Autumn 1997

An evening of two parts in which the second – a cabaret in which the company members presented examples of popular songs, music and dance – reinforced the material used in the preceding drama. Thus material from popular or street forms was used to tell the folk story of Hassan and Naima as part of the company's aim to rescue and use, in a living way, forms which are usually sentimentalised or looked down on.

Simple staging devices, like a bed frame on wheels which became a stage or series of locations, fed the audience's dramatic imagination. Comedy and tragedy were juxtaposed for deeper effect. The tragedy was both highlighted and under cut by a knockabout comic chorus effect – which we associate with Shakespeare's gravediggers or doorkeepers.

As well as being technically skilled and greatly entertaining, the evening achieved the virtue of not becoming a piece of ‘cultural voyeurism', so often the outcome of seeing work from other cultures. Because the popular forms had the sense of being reworked, of being extended and used in new ways – treated with both reverence and irreverence – the work was presented and received on its own terms. The result was akin to a Brechtian 'distancing’ whereby the story was presented to us, rather than seeking to emulate a weakly realistic 'dramatic' theatre. The piece was therefore present in its own terms, did not diminish the culture from which it sprung, yet opened itself to us to enjoy the skills and joy of the performers.

Presenting Artists
Presenting Festival
Presenting Venue
Date Seen
  1. Jun 1997

This article in the magazine

Issue 9-3
p. 23