The official Middle East News Agency said on Tuesday that the blaze swept through the theatre in the town of Beni Suef, south of Cairo, late on Monday and many of the victims were believed to have been killed in a stampede as hundreds of panicked theatre-goers tried to escape the flames.
Egyptian hospital sources said that some of the bodies were burnt beyond recognition in the fire that took hold at about 2030 GMT.
Twelve of those injured were in serious condition and some had to be evacuated to Cairo for treatment, the agency said.
Health Minister Muhammad Awad Tag Eddin told state television that 16 of those injured suffered burns exceeding 60%.
“There were also deaths due to asphyxiation,” said Anas Gaafar, governor of Beni Suef, which lies about 150km south of Cairo.
A large number of medical experts were transferred from Cairo to Beni Suef city, Aljazeera learned.
The blaze is believed to have been started accidentally by actors carrying lighted candles during the performance.
“There were also deaths due to asphyxiation”
Anas Gaafar, Beni Suef governor
Aljazeera correspondent in Egypt, Samir Omar, said the presentation of the play required lightening a large number of candles on the stage.
People got terrified when the fire erupted, rushed to the only gate of the theatre, pushing one another, he said.
The journalist added that other sources had said that a short circuit might have caused the fire.
The stage curtains caught fire and the flames quickly spread to other parts of the theatre, fuelled by combustible items that were part of the set’s decor, including paper and wood.
It caused the crowd to panic as people attempted to escape the blaze, with many of the victims believed to have been trampled underfoot.
The performance was part of an experimental theatre festival that brought together actors from the Mediterranean cities of Port Said and Alexandria.
Firefighters eventually brought the blaze under control, officials said.