Oedipus in Egypt

‘Oedipus in Egypt’, a musical theatre production by Sabri Saad El Hamus (NL), artistic director of the Dutch theatre company DNA, together with Egyptian artists (from partner Studio Emad Eddin) and Dutch artists. Depending on the location, local artists will be deployed in a subsequent bilingual (English-Arabic) version.

For his ‘Oedipus in Egypt’ the Dutch-Egyptian theatre producer Sabri Saad El Hamus drew inspiration from similarities between the Greek legend of King Oedipus and its Egyptian counterpart, the myth of Pharaoh Echnaton. While it has never been possible to link the legend of King Oedipus in Greece with a historical event, the stories of Echnaton are supported by historical facts. In his book ‘Oedipus and Echnaton’ Immanuel Velikovsky equates the two kings. He re-examines the historical facts and postulates that the legend of Oedipus from the Greek Thebes developed from the history of the royal family of Echnaton from the Egyptian Thebes. Sabri seized the opportunity to turn this assumption into what he saw as the ideal site-specific project using Dutch and Egyptian actors and performing it in both the Netherlands and Egypt. The script of the play was written by Gerard Koolschijn, translated into Egyptian-Arabic by Taha Hussein and adapted by Mustafa Stitou.

In Egypt the leading roles will be played by Egyptians, supported by a Dutch chorus, with a Dutch text. In the Netherlands it is the other way round: Dutch actors will play the leading roles, but then with an Egyptian chorus. Within the framework of, the leading roles will speak English. So a truly intercultural dialogue, particularly as the chorus explains/comments on the play.

In each location Sabri Saad El Hamus will provide the prologue. The cast consists of ten Egyptian actors (including three musicians from Upper Egypt) and two Dutch musicians, plus five local actors in each case.

In Egypt the production will be performed against the backdrop of the Great Pyramid of Giza, while in Europe islands or beaches will be found which refer to the oasis-like atmosphere of the palm-fringed road that culminates in the monumental silence that surrounds the pyramid. “The ingeniously designed flight of steps which leads to the entrance to the pyramid, strengthened our resolve to perform the play there,” says Sabri. “This location does away altogether with the need for a specially designed set. We will capitalize on the elements that already exist there: the steps, the sand and the stones. Moreover, Arab thoroughbreds will be given a prominent role in the play. Sophocles’ powerful script, supplemented with sound and lighting effects will ensure an unforgettable evening and one that gives the myth of Oedipus back to Egypt.”

“With ‘Oedipus in Egypt’ we want to build a bridge between the Egyptian-Arab and the European-Western cultures, whereby cultural diversity and variety manifest themselves through natural harmony.”

Produced by: Theatergroep De Nieuw Amsterdam; Script: Sophocles; Dutch translation: Gerard Koolschijn; Egyptian translation: Taha Hussein; Adaptation: Mustafa Stitou

Dutch cast:
Tiresias: Peter Bolhuis; Creon: Reinier Bulder; Jocasta: Mirjam Stolwijk; Oedipus: Steven Hooi; Chorus: Sarah Marie Eweg, Lisa Frenkel and Chiron Holwijn
Narrator/messenger: Sabri Saad El Hamus
Musicians: Laurens Joensen, guitar; Anne Bakker, violin

Egyptian cast:
Chorus: Mohamed El Hagrasy, Mirette Mechail and Mounir Saeed
Musicians: Essam El Makssour, Egyptian flute; Gamal Mossad, percussion; Rabie Zein, vocals

Director Sabri Saad El Hamus; Dramaturgy: Hubertus Martin Mayr; Director’s assistant: Leonie Baars

Compositions: Bob Zimmerman; Lighting design: Gé Wegman; Set: Leo de Nijs; Sound design: Husein Samy; Costume design Egypt: Nermine Said; Assistant costume designer Netherlands: Wiba Klein; Casting advice: Jeannette Snik

Production manager: Liselotte Bos; Production assistant: Nadja van der Weide; Technical aspects: Mark Snitslaar; Sound: Fons Baltus and Jeroen Vermeulen; Line producer Egypt: Ahmed El Attar

Theatergroep De Nieuw Amsterdam
Artistic director: Sabri Saad El Hamus; Business manager: Gerrit Wijnhoud; Secretariat: Hans Verburg; Press and publicity: Lieke van Gurp

Graphic design: Paulina Matusiak; Photography: Jean van Lingen

The following helped make ‘Oedipus in Egypt’ possible: City of Amsterdam, Performing Arts Fund, SNS REAAL Fund, Prince Berhard Culture Fund, Embassy of the Royal Netherlands in Cairo, Egypt.

With thanks to: Lieven Slabbinck, Al Warsha Theatergroep and Jacco Patist.
‘Oedipus in Egypt’ is part of the project, which enjoys the support of the EU Culture Programme.