"The Forty Rules of Love," a novel written by Elif Shafak, tells the story of the modern western lifestyle of a housewife looking for a reason for her life with the Sufi path of Jalal El Din El Rumi alongside Shams El Din El Tabrizi, in order to emphasize the echo of truth-seeking across different times and places.
The play focused on situating the Rumi and Shams relationship milestones, while neglecting the housewife story; since it is a rather secondary storyline in the novel.
El Salam theater is a rather small stage with limited equipment, thus requiring great intricacy to be able to place different scenes on the same stage without creating confusion. However, the director, Adel Hassan, did a marvelous job! He was able to play with the lighting, the music, the actors and the setup all together, giving a realistic feel of life back then and even managing to place multiple scenes on the same stage simultaneously.
The script of the play, written by Rasha AbdelMoneim and her workshop, was beautifully translated and cut down to the marrow in order to encompass the important essence of the novel without compromising any significant milestones of the journey between Rumi and Tabrizi. Rumi’s anticipation of the relationship, the buildup of the forty days, the wisdom spread by Tabrizi and the conflict sparked within Rumi's house were all staged, written and even sang beautifully.
The music, brought by Mohamed Hosni, was mystical and mood-changing; the audience could not stop clapping after each song was performed, thanks to the meaningful lyrics and magical music. The Sufi singers, Samir Ahmed and Fawzia (who also played the role of Kira, Rumi's wife), charmed the audience with their amazing tones and melodies alongside the beautiful music pieces and the Sufi dancers.
The beautiful decoration and setup were truly magical and mystical in essence. Mostafa Hamed, the setup designer, was out of the norm when he had onstage a dollhouse-like grid, where the characters went up and down to differentiate between the in-house and on-street scenes.
The lighting, done by Ibrahim El Forn, played a huge part in shedding the spotlight on the on-going scene, while putting the shadow on the other situations happening in a parallel time but different place. The actors would act silently as if they are out of focus. The level of dedication and focus on details took the audience aback.
Moreover, the characters’ wardrobe, done by Maha AbdelRahman, was spot on in terms of era, with just the right amount of mystical appeal needed to glam up the story.
All of this effort wouldn't have been as beautiful without the talented actors and actresses who made the show so real. I honestly got goosebumps throughout the entire thing. After being awed by the wonderful setup, lighting and singing, the acting was what glued it all together.
Rumi and Tabrizi were played by Ezzat Zein and Bahaa Tharwat, respectively. Both actors have redefined the notions of love and admiration; making it a sensible feeling between two similar minded men. At certain moments, I almost felt envious of the amazing bond they shared. They embodied two historical figures that incessantly poured chunks of knowledge, beliefs and principles into each other so effortlessly.
The remainder of the crew put an amazing show, all embodying the characters in an immensely realistic manner.
This is the second musical play to pop up in Egypt during the last month, which shows how hard Egyptian artists are working on bringing back the authentic beauty of art and reinstalling its intellectual and cultural powers.
The Verdict: A beautiful theatrical interpretation of an insightful novel. I highly recommend it to anyone looking for an intellectual and sensational evening.