‘Ash ya Wahsh’ play explores Egyptian masculinity
’ Ash ya Wahsh’ at Rawabet - Photo by Aya Samir

CAIRO: “I don’t belong to this place, I don’t know how to get out,” states a female performer in “Ash ya Wahsh” (an encouraging phrase for athletes that translates roughly to “Well done, Monster”) a play presented Friday night at the Rawabet Theater.

The 50-minute show includes a series of scenes, each telling a different story exploring the concept of masculinity in Egyptian culture.

“We found that everything we make, every situation we tell and even most of our shows reflected that concept,” director Sondos Shabayek told The Cairo Post Friday.

She added that the show has been a joint production for the BuSSy NGO project and Nazra for Feminist Studies since last May after Nazra requested to gather all their experiences into a story-telling performance.

The show has been performed in many other governorates, said actor Shimaa Tantawy, with shows at the American University in Cairo, as well as in Alexandria, Asyut and Suez.

The production opens with seven people in masks sitting on the edge of the stage. They then launch into their stories.

Performer Shady Khalil said the show chose to present unaltered curse words to convey a realistic experience for the audience.

“If we said that a girl was told ‘bleep,’ it doesn’t carry the real meaning of the real curse word, and the audience wouldn’t feel the true situation,” Shabayek said.

“We started as a group of 14, but later, many of them withdrew during rehearsals, as many of the stories were very personal; others just had work to do,” Tantawy said, adding “feminism is not discriminatory as many say; it has its role to criticize social circumstances that oppress both men and women.”

“In Alexandria, as I was telling two sexual abuse stories, and two men were sitting in front of me laughing hysterically, saying something like, ‘yes, we did that before,’” Tantawy told The Cairo Post.

Despite a reputation for a conservative culture, Asyut audiences in the Nile Delta town were receptive to the performance, and many offered their own experiences in an open mic session after the show, she added.

The show examines a number of ideas, including women’s independence, circumcision, body acceptance, desire, and how children are raised to embrace certain unquestioned standards of masculinity.

“Your prestige as a man depends on how many times you have gone out with girls,” and  “I’m proud as a man who has fun with decent girls,” male characters profess in the performance, while acknowledging that women who have gone out with men may suffer rejection from society and doubts about their reputation.

“One of the responsibilities of feminism is to criticize those certain responsibilities that society puts on the men’s shoulders, that they don’t really have to carry,” said Tantawy.

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