Walk into your not-so-typical Rawabet theatre right in the middle of the Egyptian streets, pass by the crowded qahwa, and smell the smokes of hookah with notes of mint tea. You’ll inevitably find that Nanda Mohammad, the star of Every Brilliant Thing (Kol Haga Helwa) play, is waiting to give you a number, with a word or a sentence, maybe written on a cap of a LaVache Qui Rit jar or a torn-out paper of a children’s book.
You’ll be confused, but something inside of you will smile with excitement, knowing you might be entering one of those moments that sticks with you for months to come.
And you’d be right.
The Talent Behind The Scenes
Duncan MacMillan originally wrote “Every Brilliant Thing” in English. The ever-so-talented Ahmed El Attar then translated and directed the play, with the translation being perfect to the greatest extent, down to putting Alexandrian liver (kebda) as one of the brilliant things. Egyptians saw themselves and their struggles in this translation, and that representation won’t be forgotten. Nanda Mohammad’s performance in “Every Brilliant Thing” was nothing short of an awe-inspiring and happy-soaked experience of what it means to fall in love with life.
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The Brilliant Thing About This Play
I would describe it as a romance, but that would be misleading. Her character’s main love interest is, after all, the little things of life. Soon enough, your number is called and you’re shouting out your given word or sentence from the middle of the audience, which describes one of those beautiful little moments.
Ice cream, hugs, when you fall asleep on an airplane then feel like you’ve traveled through time. Having a piano in your living room, the 7th song on every album. Most importantly, listening to Ya Mesafer Wahdak by Mohammed Abd El Wahab.
With the audience’s help, we learn all about the character’s childhood list of brilliant things that make life better. Eventually, we also learn that no number of good things, not even a million, can help with certain things. You inevitably hit a dead end, a number on the list in which you cannot continue, a halt in the good things because you’ve already thought of them all.
That’s when she started over. And re-wrote her list, because as the play’s name suggests, “Kol Haga Helwa”.
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Nanda Mohammad’s Perfect Role
Nanda’s energy was contagious, as she pulled people from the audience to act out scenes with her. They play the role of the romantic college student, the surprisingly emotional father, and even the sock-puppet-playing childhood teacher. They come in and out, and there is no shortage of breaking the fourth wall to get the scene just right.
What you won’t know walking into this rollercoaster of ups and downs is that past the hookah and tea, the people, and the bright red exit sign, you’ll leave the Rawabet theater with both sad and happy tears in your eyes. You’ll leave with a heart fuller than when you first walked in. Something inside of you will fix itself, and you’ll walk out wondering what all your “brilliant things” are.