The curtain rises on first Iraqi theatre festival

In the midst of power cuts and continuing violence the Iraqi Artists Union is preparing to stage the much-delayed Iraqi National Theatre Festival under the theme “Theatre is Life” from July 31 to August 6. 

The festival, which is being held in partnership with the Arab Theatre Organisation, was originally scheduled for the end of 2019, after the signing of an agreement between the Iraqi Artists Union and the Arab Theatre Organisation (ATO), which has put on several such national theatre festivals, in countries including Jordan and Yemen. 

Emirati writer Ismail Abdullah, ATO secretary-general, said the birth of the festival meant “Iraq was and will remain a fertile source of creativity and a breeding for creators who have always enriched Arab cultural life.” 

The festival was postponed several times for a range of reasons, including the pandemic. Now it has finally been given a green light, it will try to show important aspects of Iraqi and Arab theatre. 

Dr Jabbar Joudi, president of the festival and the Iraqi Artists Union, said mounting the festival at this time was a victory for the union anchoring its presence firmly in the cultural scene. 

Among the participants, theatre director Hamza al-Gharabawi is presenting the play “Waqi’ Khurafi” (A Fictitious Reality). 

Gharabawi explained that “the events of the play revolve around a person named Awad bin Halima, who was martyred in one of the wars and was buried in a grave on a piece of land belonging to another person.” He is asked by the Angel of Death to choose another location as a resting place. 

Gharabawi continued, “The message of the play is that all human beings live a painful virtual reality in this country.” 

He pointed out that “the Iraq National Theatre Festival is culturally and artistically important and works to boost the cultural awareness of society and introduce it to the value of art, which is an enlightenment weapon in the face of anyone who wants to deceive society and push it to the lowest levels of ignorance and darkness.” 

He added that “the festival, in the event that it is held on a regular basis, would be a successful step that restores to Iraq its civilisational and cultural values.” 

Among the festival’s participants, there is also theatre director Hazem Abdel Majid, with the play “Eshktibak” (Clash), starring Ali Dahoud and the Saja Yasser in the lead roles. 

Abdel Majid said that “Iraq’s first national theatre festival is an Arab event that shows Iraq rising like a phoenix from the ashes of wars and looks forward to the horizons of beauty.” 

He explained that “the message of this play emphasises the human will,” noting that “the peculiarity of this festival lies in the fact that it constitutes a new equation after economic crises, terrorism and multiple confrontations that the world has experienced.” 

He pointed out that “the festival is a challenge of a new kind, which lies in making serious theatre a major component of artistic culture in Iraq.”

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