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3rd April 2022

Review: The Bread We Break

Jessica Hamilton reviews The Bread We Break at Contact Theatre
Review: The Bread We Break
Photo: Tom Leatherbarrow.

Written by Jessica Hamilton.

The Bread We Break provides a fascinating display of both political and personal Egyptian history. The exploration of several different mediums and direct address of the audience demands our attention. The pace and timing are perfect. Mary Sidhom explores her own heritage and history, frequently changing topics; she leaves us restless to know more.

Sidhom stresses the importance of bread for the Egyptian people. Its sustenance is life, and its scarcity is injustice. The political and personal meaning of bread cannot be separated. And when governments underestimate its importance, its citizens will object.

The intimacy of the venue enhanced the story. The set included tapestries, rich rugs, flour and jugs. The dim lighting created a comfortable atmosphere. Sidhom’s interaction with space and props allowed imagination of daily life. She walked barefoot through the stage, working and playing with the flour. The physical touch inspired our senses, creating an understanding of her closeness to the mixture. 

As a metaphor for social change, she mixes the flour and water; the result is messy and raw but necessary for survival. 

The story is told in fragments. Riots and intimate family conversations are projected onto the wall.  She embodies the voice of protestors by standing at a podium and powerfully voicing facts with feeling. Her connection to the subject is clearly expressed every time she picks up the microphone. And the long history is conveyed through the mixing of lyrics and sound. 

Sidhom does particularly well to keep the audience engaged. She frequently offers comic relief by conversing with the audience. Her confession that she’s never actually made bread received a lot of laughter. And though she handles this lightly, attention is brought to generational differences and perhaps feelings of disconnection from her heritage. 

Movement and sound are important elements in the show. The musical introduction by Medhat Elmasry consisted of basic percussion instruments: drums and a tambourine. In addition, Sidhom performed a belly dance routine and moved her body to resemble hieroglyphics. The inclusion of natural sound and cultural movement juxtaposed the highly technical aspects of the show, such as the lighting and mixing deck. The contradiction of technologies reflects the passing of time and respect for Egyptian history. By honouring the past and embracing the future.

The Bread We Break is an impressive production; the complexity was intriguing and motivated audiences to explore further.

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