Iraq National Theatre Festival launches in Baghdad

The inaugural edition features a local performance of Samuel Beckett’s ‘Waiting for Godot’

BAGHDAD, IRAQ: Drama students rehearse at the National Theatre in Baghdad.

Qassim Zeidan is directing a play with drama students at the Iraqi National Theatre about the resilience of Baghdad.

Photo by Ali Arkady/Metrography

A new generation of playwrights and thespians will shine as part of the Iraq National Theatre Festival.

Launching its inaugural event yesterday with an opening ceremony at The National Theatre in Baghdad, the festival runs until Saturday.

A total of 18 works by theatre companies around the country will feature as part of the festival. The shows will be held keeping in mind Covid-19 safety measures at various Baghdad venues, including the Semiramis Cinema, Najah Cinema and Al Naqabah Theatre.

Select shows will be streamed live on the festival organiser, The Arab Theatre Institute's YouTube page.

With the inaugural event dedicated to pioneering late Iraqi theatre director and actor Sami Abdul Hamid, who died in 2019, aged 91, the festival aims to resuscitate the country’s rich theatre tradition.

"Today, the processions of theatrical light begin in Baghdad,” Arab Theatre Institute secretary general Ismail Abdullah reportedly said during the opening ceremony.

“The lights come from all the governorates of Iraq, and illuminating their way inside theatre lovers throughout the Arab world.”

What’s on the programme?

Running under the banner of Theatre is Life, 10 of the 18 productions feature in the festival’s competitive programme and all are being performed by local production houses.

These include Karbala’s Al Serjah Theatre Group for the Blind whose Monday production, Over Rehearsal at Semiramis Cinema, which explores the politics of running a drama troupe.

On Tuesday, at 6.30pm Baghdad time at Al Najah Cinema, the city’s Youth Theatre Association will present Hala Khassa Jiddan (A Very Private Matter) by veteran Iraqi playwright Jawad Al Hasab.

A festival highlight will surely be when Baghdad's Masrah Al Mustaheel (The Impossible Theatre Company) present their version of Samuel Becket's Waiting for Godot on Wednesday.

Also shown at the Al Najah Cinema at 6.30pm, the celebrated 1978 play is based on the philosophical and poignant discussions by characters Vladimir and Estragon as they await the titular character Godot, who never arrives.

As part of the festival, there will be an in-house conference titled Theatre and the City, held in association with the Cultural Centre at the University of Basra.

An associated exhibition by theatre photographer Salah Al Qasab will also held in the gallery space of The Iraqi Artist Syndicate headquarters in Baghdad.

Check out last night's opening ceremony below:

Updated: August 2nd 2021, 4:28 PM
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