Hundreds of Yemenis are being offered light relief amid the darkness of war as Aden hosts its first performances in four years.
Last month, Khaleej Aden Theatre Troupe, founded in 2005 by prominent Yemeni director and writer Amr Gamal, returned to the stage to perform a new play, Ala Hurkruk – a local slang term that means “on the edge”.
"It is a satirical musical performance about the suffering and the negative social phenomena that has appeared in our daily lives as a community since the war erupted," Mr Gamal told The National.
The play comprises seven scenes. Each scene irreverently depicts a common source of aggravation in people’s lives since the fighting began in 2015, such as a power shortage, devaluation of the local currency or a sharp rise in food prices.
Because most of the city’s theatres have been destroyed in the conflict with the Houthi rebels, the troupe is using wedding halls to stage its performances.
“People in Aden love the theatre and the cinema and such arts have been a part of the identity of the city since 1904,” Mr Gamal said.
“I was so amazed with the overwhelming attendance of the audience for our new play.
“Such love and appreciation for our work inspires my colleagues and I to pass over the many challenges we face while preparing for the shows.”
Theatre came to Aden by chance and was introduced by an Indian troupe in the early 20th century.
Jamlat Shah, a group of musicians, singers and actors, were forced to stop in Aden in 1904 while heading to Britain by ship, Mohammed Abdullah Hussein, director of Aden’s cultural office, said.
While the troupe’s vessel underwent maintenance in the city, performers were free to entertain the dazzled Yemenis.
Their performances were so popular that the city opened its first theatre that year, with the first Yemeni theatrical company established in 1910.
Despite the fragile security situation in Aden, Gamal and his troupe have once more started to stage theatrical works to help distract people living in Aden, however fleetingly, from the war raging around them.
“I come to the hall to perform despite the fear of clashes that could erupt any time. My colleagues and I are satisfied that we must struggle to bring peace, love and life back to our country – we are tired of war,” said Ghaiyda Jamal, an actress in Ala Hurkruk.
Each of the performances, which take place three times a week, draw more than 400 men, women and children to Al Sheikh Othman city in northern Aden province.
“It was really funny, it represented the real situation we have been living in since the war broke out,” said audience member Muneer Mohammed.
He said he experienced a roller coaster of emotions as the performance took place.
“I found myself laughing hysterically during some scenes and in tears during others – this is our life,” he said.
Another member of the audience, Saly Anis, said that watching a live theatre show convinced her that one day there would be peace.
“Getting the theatre back to action in wartime is such a miracle,” she said.
“I felt that we can overcome the war if we come together to say for all the conflict’s parties ‘please stop fighting, we are tired enough’.
“I decided to come and watch the performance with some members of my family.
“The performance hall is far away but our desire to leave the mood of war behind pushed us to come.”