Magic of Borolus on Al Gomhoryya Theatre. March 2012. Photo Credit Osama Dawod
Volume 2

Ritual and Myth in Dalia Basiouny’s The Magic of Borolus

Ritual and Myth
in Dalia Basiouny’s The Magic of Borolus
by Amal Aly Mazhar
Arab StagesVolume 1, Number 2 (Spring 2015)
 ©2015 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

In the aftermath of the January 25, 2011 Revolution, the Egyptian theatrical scene witnessed a new wave of “independent” artists, such as Dalia Basiouny, a promising young Egyptian dramaturg /director/dramatist/actress.  In an interview, she described herself as an “artivist”-“I think of myself as an Artivist [artist and activist], a term coined by Kayhan Irani–my role as an artist and as a citizen combined. For me, art and expression are an integral part of the revolutionary process, not just in mobilizing, but reflecting.”[1]  Thus, I contend that her play The Magic of Borolos, which she performed and directed in March 2013, as part of the “Independent Egyptian theatre,” the alternative to the state-subsidized theatre, aims at achieving this effect. Her plays both interrogate and deconstruct a stereotyped negative female identity, and mount a critique of a society which resists change, as some critics suggest, urging it to fight dogmatism. What this paper proposes is that the dramatist’s performance of ritual and myth are utilized as weapons to resist societal dogmatism and assert female solidarity in the pursuit of empowerment. This is done in order to create a counter-narrative to subvert, not only male domination and hegemony, but a whole societal code which resists change. As Basiouny points out in the introduction to the play: “This is an Egyptian play which makes use of ritual to reach an alternative consciousness.”[2] This paper considers whether the rituals she utilizes in the play indicate an “empty formality” or” deep commitment” according to the division suggested by Shepherd and Wallis.[3] It will further question (and seek to refute) the view put forward by Morgan and Brask, who contend that “one major function of rituals in traditional societies is the symbolic validation of the extant social order given sanction in myth.”[4]

Magic of Borolos, a multi-layered dramatic text or a “mosaic of intertexts” in the words of Julia Kristeva, is inspired by different sources, specifically Egyptian myth, popular and folkloric songs and rituals, some genuine and others are invented by the dramatist. The influence of Arthur Miller’s The Crucible is unmistakable as Basiouny herself has admitted.[5]   However, she has reworked this material to endow it with an Egyptian flavor which expresses her message and vision, and gives the play its own distinct presence.

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