Katie Posner directs six stellar performances in Ahlam’s layered, charged, and electrifying debut about growing up in post-revolutionary Cairo.

Credit: Pamela Raith

After the Arab Spring of 2011, a new wave of hope flooded through the Egyptian youth — the dream of things getting better, of rules relaxing, of women being able to enact their freedom and people being able to love who they want. You Bury Me explores the ebb and flow of this wave, as three boys and three girls navigate growing up under the shadow of military dictatorship, and dealing with their dreams becoming a reality.

An array of interwoven stories are all incredibly relatable and well-observed coming-of-age narratives that nod heavily to the context of the piece — the political backdrop is fused so gracefully into the storytelling that we’re transported and challenged, all the while knowing exactly what’s going on for the characters. Budding romance hidden from view, political blogging and gay hookups apps in the face of danger, the risk of casual sex giving women the label of ‘slut’ — all this is explored with a frank humour and pathos that makes Sex Education look didactic. The burgeoning and troubled friendship of Maya (Yasemin Özdemir) and Lena (Eleanor Nawal) sees the latter blossom from shyness into an expressive, skipping lover. Rafik (Nezar Alderazi) and Osman’s (Tarrick Benham) beautifully pitched and eventually explosive friendship explores layers of risk and masculinity all over a spliff. Tamer (Moe Bar-El) and Alia’s (Hanna Khogali) youthful love story starts out as sweet and earnest as a rom-com (and not the prudish kind) but evolves into a drama with a real edge.

Ahlam’s script shifts beautifully from a rhythmic, shared narration to more traditional scene dialogue, placing us firmly in the historical and cultural setting of Cairo — a city of paradox, passion and spirituality. Kicking the show off with a bang, the bright and playful cast bounce off each other in a movement sequence that masterfully captures all the bustle and activity of the streets. This energetic style follows the piece throughout, with much dancing and physical dynamism transforming into a much more sinister ensemble set piece later on.

Credit: Pamela Raith

The in-the-round set-up is used to full effect, with Sara Perks’ lithe and versatile blocks providing plenty of platforms, tables, doors, and cars. Kareem Samara and Adam P McCready’s expansive composition and sound design weaves birdsong, pop music, and North African vocals, supporting the action with a tonal score that never intrudes or detracts. It’s a playlist I don’t know, but like many of the textures of this piece is at once so specific and immediately relatable.

For a 100 minutes show, boldly eschewing an interval pays off, as the build towards the multi-levelled conclusion climaxes with a subtle intensity. It’s full of force but not quite so devastating — powerful and yet restrained. I for one appreciated the hypothetical conclusion as it left room for hope, not positioning these characters as victims of their regime but not shying away from the sudden intensity of what they are going through either. The final image of the cast, with its clever use of shadow and light, is deeply evocative and moving.

There’s a lot of depth here, and a subtle, layered approach to writing that’s at once direct and full of insight. It’s an ambitious challenge to write the story of a city that’s been through so much — yet here it is, in all its multitudes. This is, quite simply, a beautiful production.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

{🎟 AD – PR invite – Tickets were gifted in exchange for an honest review}

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