Ramy: In the Frontline

An Egyptian activist tells his no-holds-barred story of the Arab Spring

theatre review | Read in About 2 minutes
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Published 09 Aug 2017

Ramy Essam is a singer/songwriter from Egypt. He's also a political activist who joined the front line at Tahrir Square in 2011. Now an exile living in Scandinavia, he's found that participating in this direct action has irrevocably changed him, but he's free to share his story of music and revolution.

Essam describes how growing up in a misogynistic, macho culture trained him to be a fighter. But as he got older and found himself in increasingly more dangerous altercations, he turned his focus to another outlet. After a friend taught him to play guitar, he channeled his energy into writing political songs. But he didn't consider himself an activist until friends encouraged him to come to a sit-in in Cairo that was the start of the Arab Spring.

Projections, video and an occasional live feed help to support his story by providing protest footage, maps and diagrams. These visual elements are a smart inclusion in a show that otherwise wouldn't have much to look at. Essam is also a fantastic singer. With a rich, resonant voice, he endows the few songs he shares with conviction and care. They help to break up his story, though more of them would be welcome.

This is a quiet, anti-theatrical monologue that's more of a talk than a performance, but it largely works. Essam's narrated experiences have plenty of excitement and horror and can hold the audience's attention on their own. They're a powerful reminder that political oppression is still globally rife.