500s
photography by Egyptians

designed: 2015 by ramzi makram-ebeid

Ramzi was able to create and develop a concept that wasn’t only artistically basic yet brilliant but also interactive. The work created a rich visual image for all the stories in the performance, and a different and uncommon setting for the stage.

500s is one of the rawest, bravest and thought-provoking plays I have seen in Egypt.  Just as I like to push my clients envelopes, and make them see design in a new way, the uber-talented and courageous drama team do the same for theater in this play.  500s is based on several sexual harassment incidents in Cairo from the early 90’s until today.  500s has no boundaries, and exposes issues and stories that we sadly rarely hear in Egypt in theater or the media.  All this was done in a transparent way, both in the writing and performances.  For example, rather then have a backstage area, this play brilliantly shows the actors go from character to actor and back again in view of the audience.

When the show’s very talented director came to me, she wanted something that the cast could easily move around and interact with.  She was thinking of using whiteboards that the characters could flip to change scenes and modular blocks that can be used on stage.  As a furniture and interior designer, I was thinking more along simple lines, and lighter objects. 

To begin with, I wanted a set that was as quiet as possible.  Between all the action and the script, the set had to be visually quiet and not distracting.

The chairs, which are often used, are straight, modern and minimal.  As we had blackboard paint for the classroom scenes, we decided to paint everything in the same finish to increase conformity, as well as potential writing surfaces for the actors.

The panels use the same dimensions as the chairs in the structural sense.  They are as thin as possible for them to remain durable.  The long vertical look takes the viewer out of the horizontal action, and creates display space for each scene.  Classroom scenes, for instance, used the plain blackboards panels, and the bathroom scenes, use the reflective surfaces panels.  By having all the panels in the same size, we not only added more conformity, but we also directed the audience to look at specific spaces via our set.