When one watches a play, one cannot help but try to relate it to everyday life for that is definitely what inspires art. “El Nas Eli Fuq”, or “The People Upstairs” was this semester’s play at AUC. It is basically about the social tensions and changes that occurred in Egypt after the 1952 revolution. The play focuses primarily on people from the upper class and how they deal with these changes.
As the play goes on, we encounter the intriguing character of Raqiqa (whose name has nothing to do with her vain and bossy character, it’s a misnomer actually)the wife of the basha who is solely concerned with money, social status, and prestige. We can see how social influence plays a huge role in how she urges her husband to not sell the Rolls Royce car because she wants to go to her social club’s meeting with it. She always mentions how she cares about what people think of her and how she wants to be to their expectations of her as the basha’s wife.
We also meet the hilarious character Kandeel, who is the basha’s long-life assistant. His funny mannerisms aside, we can clearly notice how he uses ingratiation to appeal to the basha to get what he wants. He is constantly acting extremely humble and coy with the basha, showering him with compliments and obeying his orders whatever they may be.
As the events of the play unfold, we witness some clashes between people of the upper class and those of the lower class, how they perceive each other, deal with each other, and so on. We see how the construal of both types of people are very different. Both have certain characteristics that they attribute to the other; some of which may sometimes be wrong. Moreover, the social comparison theory is evident when Raqiqa keeps comparing herself to her friends of the same social class and how she wants to do what they do, even though the financial condition of her husband is not as promising as it used to be before the revolution.
The play also includes illustrations of gender roles in Egyptian society at that time and how men and women ought to act. We notice how the issue of marriage surfaces and is one of the main concerns for Egyptian mothers and daughters. This is evident when Sekina, Raqiqa’s sister, is concerned about her daughter’s marriage and is trying to choose the best suitor for her. We also find this concern about marriage in relation to men when Raqiqa wants to make sure that her nephew, Hassan, gets married to a rich girl, even though he is poor.
The character of Khalil, the basha’s younger brother, offers us an interesting insight on how men used to behave at that time period. We see Khalil as the man who enjoys life to the fullest and is all about making money and living large. He does not care about his only daughter, Titi, and leaves her to try to find her way in life on her own. His attitude towards her causes her to despise him and refuse to live with him when he offered her near the end of the play. Although not directly visible on stage, we hear allusions to Khalil’s adventures with several women throughout his life. Of course, no one judged him simply because he is a man.
By the end of the play, we can notice how the characters from the upper class have a fixed mindset and refuse to believe that they have lost a great deal of their fortunes. They continue to act as if they still have their prestige and status even though they clearly don’t.
All photos taken from the AUC website.