Perfume is probably the first play ever to be staged on the topic of the problems of people who have hearing impairments in Egypt.  It was one of the best plays performed at 23rd Cairo International Festival for Contemporary and Experimental Theatre.  The deaf and dumb (as they are labeled in Egypt) are oftentimes outcasts from mainstream society. Their sign language is often harshly satirized and mocked, even though five million Egyptians suffer from a hearing impairment. The play has been performed at Al Taliaa theater since last July, with great success. Mohamed Allam is the play’s director. The performers are a group of eight young people who have a hearing and speaking impairments and six professional actors. The play simply addresses the daily hardships of hearing-impaired individuals and the lack of attention (from officials and society) to their basic needs, such as continuing their education and finding steady jobs, thus depriving them of their natural rights to continue their lives as productive human beings.

The performance narrates the story of two acting groups simultaneously. It is performed in sign language, so as to be more realistically related to the problem. The play portrays the dilemma of a young man who is rejected by his beloved’s family because he has a hearing impairment. Moreover, it sheds light on the paradoxes he faces in his everyday life. The sign language director of the play is herself a deaf person. However, she asserts, “We are deaf, but certainly not dumb!” This play is vivid proof of that. Amar Adel supervised all rehearsals and helped with the choreography and direction of the performers who have a hearing and speaking impairments.

The consensus of the audience was a very positive one, although the producers were worried that the play might not be successful or entertaining enough because of its unorthodox approach and content. The title of the play, Perfume, calls for the invocation of all our senses, including our sense of smell, to fully empathize with these underrated members of society.

Finally, the play is a desperate cry for help to the officials and society to ‘hear’ these people out and to not shut their ears and eyes to their problems. Although local in its undertones, it is global in its internationally acclaimed concerns.

This post was written by the author in their personal capacity.The opinions expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not reflect the view of The Theatre Times, their staff or collaborators.