In Ahmed El Attar’s The Last Supper, a well off Egyptian family gathers around the dinner table, and through their vapid interactions we are served up a feast of nihilism, absurdity and apathy.
The cast of eleven, representing the thirteen characters of the play, brings to life the stereotypes of the contemporary Egyptian bourgeoisie, each character embodying a self-absorbed philosophy mired in his own preconceptions.
Through its darkly comedic, almost caricaturish take on the life of a typical affluent family, The Last Supper highlights the inescapable emptiness that casts its shadow over the illusion of plenty and the hollow exchanges which masquerade as human connection, offering a zesty microcosm of what Egyptian society has become.
Two topics have been central to my work over the years, one is the family and its internal power structures and the other is the interdependent relationship between master and servant. Both reflect the larger dynamics negotiated within society as well as its hidden perpetual crisis.
While my work is fictional, the absurd streak that runs through it reflects my perception of what I experience by living with people in a society. I believe that what makes audiences recognize and engage with my work, is not an attempt at verisimilitude, it is rather the realisation of the absurdity of the situations, relationships and conditions that we are all part of on a daily basis. My work is not meant to present problems or to propose solutions. It is not meant to present a higher truth, a valuable message or an opinion on how the world should or could be. I like to believe that my work simply depicts what I see, distorted as my perception could be, leaving to the audience the burden of deciding what to do, if anything at all.»
The process of creating this piece relied on the independent, but simultaneous development of both script and characters. By envisioning the world of the play, then creating the characters to exist outside the boundaries of that world, the director was able to allow for the organic development of the characters, while still integrating them into the script as it was being written.
The parallel evolution of these two elements – characters and text – enabled the director to both preserve, and resist, the theatricality of the theatre. The fictitious characters are placed within the context of a satirical text, and allowed to interact with it, rather than imposing actors on a pre-written text, or taking the opposite approach of relying on material harvested from improvisational exercises.
This play is a result of this organic, malleable process.