Berliner Ensemble with Brecht Statue
Volume 1

Brecht’s Theatre and Social Change in Egypt (1954–71)

Brecht’s Theatre and Social Change in Egypt (1954–71)
by Magdi Youssef
 Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 1 (Fall 2014)
 ©2014 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

In the Brecht International Dialogue, held in Berlin in 1968, it was noted that the majority of the 53 countries performing Brecht were situated outside Europe, namely in the Third World. The affinity between Brecht’s conception of the theatre and the struggle for liberation of the peoples of Asia, Africa, and Latin America was obvious. Both in Vietnam[1] and the Middle East the success of Brecht’s reception corresponded to the social needs of the majority of the population. In this article, I shall try to interpret the interest in Brecht’s theatre and his epic theory of theatre in Egyptian society since the mid-fifties until 1971.

Without considering the fundamental social changes in Egypt that followed the Free Officers’ coup d’état of 1952, it would hardly be possible to explain the deep interest in Brecht’s works—for the first time in modern Egyptian history—shown by Egyptian left-wing intellectuals between 1954 and 1956 in the internment camp of Abu Za’bal in which President Nasser had imprisoned them.  Brecht’s plays and epic theory of theatre were the subject of extended readings and wide discussions in those camps.[2]

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