Fragments from the life of society before the Egyptian revolution: tales told in a tense, violent language, sign of a system ready to explode.

Presented in Lugano during the 27th edition of the FIT Festival, Before the Revolution, by Egyptian playwright Ahmed El Attar, is interpreted here by Monica Piseddu and Valentino Villa and remixed by Alan Alpenfelt and Zeno Gabaglio who crafted a sound design for use on the internet and text messages. While El Attar’s stage version intertwined reality and fiction about pre-revolutionary Egypt, Alpenfelt and Gabaglio’s sound creation, specially conceived for Lingua Madre, draws on those images but also adds a reflection on whether or not it is possible to do free art.


Ahmed El Attar

Alan Alpenfelt
Zeno Gabaglio

Alan Alpenfelt

Monica Piseddu
Valentino Villa

sound space
Zeno Gabaglio

Lara Persia - Lemura Recording Studio

sound engineer
Brian Burgan, LAC
Lorenzo Sedili, LAC

graphic design
Mike Toebbe, LAC

video animation
Irene Masdonati, LAC

web developing
Ivan Pedrini, LAC
sistemistica Cryms Sagl

Studio Pagi

production delegate
Vanessa Di Levrano, LAC
Marzia Montagna, LAC

LAC Lugano Arte e Cultura

Can language contain the evolution of a society? Judging from the violence implied in comments posted on social media, vicious attacks launched from one account to another, the hatred and venom spewed within walls of people’s homes or towards their neighbors, the violence of superheroes that blockbuster films continue to feature, rhetoric that glosses over (when it doesn’t exploit) anxieties, disturbances, poverty and unhappiness, one would hope that the answer is no. And yet it is precisely in language that we can detect the direction the world is heading.

In Before the Revolution language reached a limit, an anthropological and social boundary line which it could not go overstep. In fact, in 2011 people poured out into the streets in an attempt to find new solutions. But Before the Revolution is also about the impossibility of making progress, an impossibility – due to language – of delving deeper into reality.

In fact, in the original play, it was the stage production, the scenic space that expressed the unspeakable in all its explosiveness. The challenge of translating into sound such a potent duality –a text and a scene, without being able to use physical actors and objects – seemed daunting at first sight. The quest for a solution - an effective one and not just a ploy– meant we had to come up with something other than the flow of the sounds of language. A deus ex macchina of perception that could pose the question and cast doubt over the expressible.  We felt the most appropriate solution was the unpredictable alternation between digital platforms. We entrusted the linearity of Before the Revolution – remixed with real musical taste – to one platform and moved the “making of” part of the project to other vehicles which engendered and ripened into a whole series of doubts, questions and fears.

Ahmed El Attar
El Attar hails from Egypt and is a theatre director, dramaturge and cultural operator. He is the founder and head of Orient Productions, a production company located in Cairo and involved in various cultural, artistic and entertainment projects. El Attar is also founder and artistic director of The Downtown Contemporary Arts Festival (D-CAF), one of Egypt’s leading festivals, of Studio Emad Eddin (SEE) Foundation, a unique organization that procures working and rehearsal space for independent Egyptian stage artists, of DX-Media, a digital platform and of the company Temple Independent. His work has been performed all around the world: Lebanon, Sweden, Portugal, Germany, Belgium, Netherlands, France, Switzerland, Italy, Croatia, UK, Singapore, Russia, Scotland and the USA. His work  F**K Darwin or How I Have Learned to Love Socialism won him the award as best actor in the 22nd  edition of the Cairo International Festival for Experimental Theatre. In 2013 he received an award from the Synergos foundation as a Pioneer of Egypt. In 2015 with The Last Supper, a work he wrote and directed, he participated in the 69th Festival d’Avignon and in the 44th Festival d'Automne in Paris before going on a world tour.  In 2018 he again participated in the Festival d’Avignon with Mama, a work about the figure of mothers and women in Egypt, a patriarchal society. The same year he became Chevalier des arts et des lettres of the republic of France for his contribution to theatre art.

Alan Alpenfelt
Alpenfelt is a Swiss British theatre director and music producer. Since 2020 he has been coordinating Luminanza – reattore per la drammaturgia contemporanea svizzera di lingua italiana which was the winning submission of Pro Helvetia’s Close Distance competition. In 2018 he completed a Masters in directing at the LAC under the supervision of Carmelo Rifici and the tutor and dramaturg Francesca Garolla. As a director – from 2014 to today- he staged the musical adaptation of Samuel Beckett’s Words and Music (a performance selected for the Rencontre du Théâtre Suisse 2015), Il Processo per l'Ombra dell'Asino, Operazione Vega and Sera d'Autunno  by F. Dürrenmatt, Lungs by Duncan Macmillan, L'Epidemia  by Agota Kristof and Jackie by Elfriede Jelinek, the latter produced by the LAC.  He is also interested in one-to-one experiences. The project Secret Sound Stories was sent to the Biennale dell’immagine di Chiasso 2014, Trasparenze Modena (2015), AltoFest Napoli (2016), AltoFest Valletta, Malta (2018), Ural Industrial Biennale, Russia (2021). His audio-visual exhibition Binaural Views of Switzerland was selected by Pro Helvetia for the Swiss Selection Edinburgh 2021. In addition to his musical activity, Alan Alpenfelt also has a music label- Human Kind Records – which produces works of sound poetry. He is also active in the world of community radio and has worked in Switzerland, Benin and Morocco.

Zeno Gabaglio
After earning a diploma in cello, a Masters in free improvisation and a degree in philosophy (in Lugano, Basel and Florence) Gabaglio devoted himself to music in various forms preferring more authentic and, perhaps, less usual approaches. So far, he has published four discs, composed more than forty musical scores (for cinema and theatre) and participated in concerts in Europe, America and Asia. Recently he has been included in the collection Interactions – Swiss Experimental Music and has written scores for the films Moka noir by Erik Bernasconi, Love me tender by Klaudia Reynicke and Cronofobia by Francesco Rizzi. In the theatre he has worked with Carmelo Rifici on The Seagull, Purgatorio, Ifigenia, liberata and Uomini e no; with Andrea Chiodi on The Taming of the Shrew; with Trickster-p on Nettles. Active also as a critic and disseminator, he collaborates regularly with the RSI Radiotelevisione svizzera (for which he created the web series Rossini, musica per il palato which won awards in various international festivals). Gabaglio is a teacher of free improvisation at the Conservatorio della Svizzera italiana in Lugano, member of the Commissione culturale cantonale and president of the musical subcommittee, member of the SUISA council and of the council of the Fondation SUISA.

Monica Piseddu
She graduated as an actress from the Accademia Nazionale D’Arte Drammatica Silvio D’Amico. From 2002, for more than ten years, she worked with Arturo Cirillo in the performances: Mettiteve a fa’ l’ammore cu’ me by E. Scarpetta, L’Ereditiera by A. Ruccello, La Piramide by Copi, The Learned Ladies by Molière, Le cinque rose di Jennifer by A. Ruccello, Othello by Shakespeare, The Miser by Molière, Ferdinando by A. Ruccello e The Glass Menagerie by T. Williams. In 2004 she appeared with Mario Martone in the first edition of Oedipus at Colonus by Sophocles. She also worked with Massimiliano Civica in La Parisienne by H. Becque (2005), Alcestes by Euripides (2014) and Antigone by Sophocles (2019), with Antonio Latella in Natale in casa Cupiello by E. De Filippo (2014) and Ti regalo la mia morte, Veronika by F. Bellini and A. Latella (2015),with Daria Deflorian and Antonio Tagliarini, as an actress in the project Ce ne andiamo per non darvi altre preoccupazioni (2013) and Quasi Niente (2018), freely inspired by the film Red Desert  by Michelangelo Antonioni. Together with Daria Deflorian and Monica Demuru she took part in the programme Il Teatro di Radio Tre with Memoria di Ragazza. Una lettura e qualche canzone from the book by A. Ernaux, and in the programme Ad Alta voce where she read Il gioco dei regni by Clara Sereni, adapted by L. Pavolini. After winning the Ubu prize in 2007 for best actress in a non-leading role, in 2015 she received the Premio della Critica, the Ubu prize for the best actress of the year and the Premio Le Maschere for best actress in a non-leading role. In 2016 she won the Premio Hystrio for interpretation and in 2019 the Premio Eleonora Duse. In the cinema she has worked with Paolo Sorrentino in La grande bellezza (2013), with Marco Bellocchio in Fai bei sogni (2015) and with Ludovico Di Martino in La Belva (2019).  

Valentino Villa
Director, interpreter and voice trainer, Villa graduated from the Accademia Nazionale ‘Silvio d’Amico’ and perfected his craft with Luca Ronconi. He obtained a degree in Economics in the strategic and organizational aspects of live performance prodction companies and was certified as a teacher of the Linklater method – Freeing the natural voice. He began acting with Ronconi in The Brothers Karamazov, Questa sera si recita a soggetto Sogno, Lolita, I due gemelli veneziani, Il Candelaio, Amor nello specchio by Giovan Battista Andreini. At the Piccolo Teatro he played in various productions including: Richard III directed by Arpad Schilling and Materiali per una tragedia tedesca by Antonio Tarantino directed by Cherif. In 2006 he directed his first work. In recent years he has been delving deeper into his relationship with the dramaturgy of Jean-Luc Lagarce. He directed the premiere in Italian of Noi, gli Eroi and produced in collaboration with Rai Radio3, Music-hall with Daria Deflorian in the leading role. In 2013 he was in the cast of Ce ne andiamo per non darvi altre preoccupazioni by Deflorian/Tagliarini. In 2016 he began directing operas and debuted with Cefalo e Procri by Ernst Krenek for Venice’s La Fenice Theatre. He worked with director Francesco Micheli on Verdi’s Traviata (2018) and directed Intermedi della Pellegrina for the Festival del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino and Luci mie traditrici by Salvatore Sciarrino for the Fenice in Venice (2019). In 2021 for the Festival del Maggio Musicale Fiorentino he will be directing the world premiere of Jeanne Dark by Fabio Vacchi. He teaches acting at the Silvio d’Amico school in Rome.