A play in which actors playing overbearing US troops invade a theatre cafe has proved a hit with audiences in Cairo through its open identification with the Iraqi resistance.
Brainwash stars Khalid al-Sawi, who wrote the play in which he acts as General Tommy Franks, the US military commander who led the invasion of Iraq last March.
The play, which opened in late January, drew a full house of several hundred people at a theatre in the Japanese-built Opera House complex earlier this week.
Its beginning startled ticket holders as they milled around the food and beverage counter just outside the theatre.
Actors wearing US military uniforms rushed into the drinks area firing deafening blank shots from pistols and wielding clubs over the heads of men dressed in white robes and women clad in black.
They then aimed their weapons at the crowd who were ordered to enter the theatre.
Dreams of youth
Walking onto the scene, al-Sawi, playing Franks, is the guest on a television programme called the Dreams of Youth.
He is interviewed by an attractive woman playing the role of an Arab satellite television anchorwoman, who flirtatiously and obsequiously asks him how the United States will help "achieve the hopes of young" Arabs.
US General Tommy Franks is
lampooned in the production
"I swear to you - and I'm ready to divorce if I don't tell you the truth - that we came to the region only to free the Arab peoples from the regimes that govern them," the actor playing the general says.
He challenges anyone to prove the contrary, causing spectators to double over in laughter.
In another scene, a young man showers praise on Franks, who is sarcastically presented as a role model for young Arabs to help them achieve their dreams of "democracy, freedom and prosperity."
'Resistance is duty'
A giant screen in the background shows television news footage of the US-led occupation, including scenes of US soldiers smashing into homes and dragging out Iraqis.
At one point when Franks's character promises Iraqis freedom and democracy, a column of prisoners is paraded on screen.
"This play tries to show the real aim of the war and American occupation of Iraq, which is not to establish democracy but to control the oil wealth of this country and the entire Arab world"
Playwright and actor
"This play tries to show the real aim of the war and American occupation of Iraq, which is not to establish democracy but to control the oil wealth of this country and the entire Arab world," al-Sawi said.
"We support the Iraqi resistance because, as (early 20th century German revolutionary) Rosa Luxembourg said, when oppression becomes law, resistance is a duty."
The climax of the play, which is interspersed with songs, is an aborted attempt to kill the US general, a scene that drew loud applause before the would-be assassins were shown under arrest.
Arab channels criticised
In the last scene, the actors marched to the front of the stage and each one described himself as a correspondent from one of the many Arab satellite television stations which broadcast images and reports from Iraq daily.
"All the Arab television stations support the American occupation indirectly," al-Sawi said.
"They twist reality and destroy the Arab conscience. They deal with the Iraqi question and the Palestinian question without taking a position while we are directly implicated in these causes," he said.
The audience, most of them in their 20s and 30s, frequently erupted into loud applause or laughter whenever the United States was criticised or mocked.