Finding its origins in Ancient Greece, miming - as well as pantomiming - were once popular arts in Egypt. With the onset of sound film and the following Golden Age of Egyptian cinema, the theatre was left by the wayside and miming was condemned to the history books, appearing on rare occasions in the mainstream as a gimmick or novelty.
In Egypt, mimes focus on the entertainment aspect rather than creating a story and projecting a certain mood. We want to change that.
For the last 7 years, however, two Egyptians have been working to revive what is a much more complex and intricate performance art than most people care to understand. Abdulla Sultan and Abdelrahman 'Judge' El Kady, aka silent theatre troupe Silhouette, put on performances that incorporate a variety of practices including contemporary dance, pantomiming, and miming. But their efforts haven't been without difficulty, as they compete with more and more forms of modern entertainment.
“Our first project was Silent Night and it was built around miming, pantomiming, physical theatre and contemporary dance,” says Sultan. “We got into it by pure coincidence. We must’ve been like 9 and 12 and we’d been walking past a workshop by Mohamed Abdallah [one of the revered mimes in Egypt] and he was just doing weird things and, as kids, that caught our attention. We've basically been hooked ever since.”
Silent theatre was left by the wayside and miming was condemned to the history books, appearing on rare occasions in the mainstream as a gimmick or novelty.
Founded in 2012, Silhouette has put on several plays that tackle serious topics. Contrary to the widespread notion that miming is mainly comedy, Silhouette has managed to re-enact universal truths as well as create storylines revolving around serious mental health issues like bipolar disorder.
“We’re trying to improve miming in Egypt and evolve it. People are misinformed about it. The art itself is misunderstood,” says Judge. “Miming comes in so many forms. I can make you cry, I can inspire you, I can move you. I can make you feel a range of emotions simply with the way I move. What we work on is emotion. Silence is actually the core of theatre, where actors would originally use only their bodies to express themselves.”
We must’ve been like 9 and 12 and walking past a workshop [by a mime] just doing weird things and, as kids, that caught our attention. We've basically been hooked ever since.
Silhouette aims to do more than simply make miming popular again. The troupe wants not only bring the lost art back to Egypt's stages, but to make it their own.
“In Egypt, mimes focus on the entertainment aspect rather than creating a story and projecting a certain mood," Sultan says defiantly. "We want to change that."
Video and photography by @MO4Network's #MO4Productions