There are two categories of theatre arts in Egypt:
This category is based on the written oral text recited by professional actors on either fixed or movable stages. This type of theatre was known in Egypt during the eighteenth century.
Second: Shadow Theatre
This type has affected the modern Arab theatre. Shadow theatre appeared in Egypt during the Fatimid era in the religious and social occasions.
Theatre appeared in Egypt during the French campaign in 1789. In 1869 Khedive Ismail established the French Comedy Theatre and the Opera House to receive the delegations participating in the celebrations he prepared for his guests in the occasion of opening the Suez Canal. He also established another theatre in Al Azbakia Garden in 1870.
The year 1921 witnessed the birth of the first national theatre.
Experimentalism as a trend in theatre and arts generally has emerged at stages of deep cultural transformations, when prevailing, conventional language, forms and techniques are short of assimilating and expressing new systems of awareness and sensitivities of the time.
Experimentalism in the Egyptian Theatre
With the beginning of the dramatic revival in Egypt and the Arab world during the Fifties, Experimentalism imposed itself on the dramatic scene as an artistic need to cope up with the historical transformations that prevailed the Arab countries at that time.
Experimentalism in the Egyptian theatre underwent two distinctly articulate phases:
The first consisted in a rebellious attitude towards the conventional norms. Dramatic artists started experimenting with modern European formulae such as Socialist Realism, Absurd, Documentary and Coffee-shop Theatre.
Rich and serious as they were, these experiments, failed to generate a clear-cut Arab stream of Experimentalism. However, they helped create an awareness of the specificity and multiplicity of theatrical language. They further liberated Arab dramatic practice from the shackles of Conventional Realism, setting the stage for a genuine Arab experimental theatre.
Starting in mid-Sixties, this phase showed an enhanced pursuit for an Arab dramatic formula, combining elements of both modernity and originality. This trend was upheld, by playwrights like Tawfeeq al-Hakeem, Yousef Idrees and Alfred Farag and critics and dramatic writers like Ali ar-Ra'ie, Naguib Sorour, Shawqi abdel- Hakeem among others. This phase was characterized by deeply delving into Arab heritage as well as objectively analyzing and criticizing the Arab personality.
As a result of the endeavors of those pioneers and other Arab dramatists, there emerged a new Arab dramatic formula that was both original and modern at the same time. While taking root in the popular heritage, this trend made use of the then most up-to-date techniques of international experimental theatre. Although this formula varied from one dramatist to another it maintained one common basic structure.
Old Egyptian Theatre:
Cairo had thirteen theatres such as Opera, Brintania, Arab Acting House, Casino De Paris, George Abiad Theatre, Piccadilly, Eastern Music Club, Al-Azbakia Garden Theatre, and Casino Helwan. These theatres were crowded with the Egyptian fans Cairo's Nights. The theatres of Humbra, Concordia, Ambir Theatre in Rashid Garden , Risch Café , Opera Theatre enlightened Alexandria. The theatrical activities involved reviving evenings in Al-Mansoura, Tanta, Port Said, Menya, Zaqazeeq, Menouf, Beni Sweif, Kafr Al-Sheikh, and Luxor.
Al-Mansoura had Cinema Eden Theatre, and Municipality Theatre, and Tanta had the Municipality Council Theatre now owned by the governorate.
The existence of such Theatres indicates the vitality of the theatrical artistic activity in the first decades of the 20th century. Another indicator of such an activity is the appearance of the elite writers and men of letters who participated in such a creation either by translation, quotation, or composing.