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Volume :1 Issue : 1 1975      Add To Cart                                                                    Download

THE THEATRICAL MOVEMENT IN KUWAIT AND BAHRAIN

Auther : Muhammad Hassan Abdallah

         Because of the impact of the stage on mass audiences and its competition for their attention with the traditions of the poet-storytellers and the recent phenomenon of the short story and novel, it is important to present a study of the stage in the Arab Gulf.

         As a new means of expression, the stage requires a high degree of civilized existence, such as settled population, the toleration of criticism and the technical ability to present a play. Consequently, it became prominent in Kuwait and Bahrain only and practically nowhere else with the exception of Qatar.

         Interaction between Kuwait and Bahrain let to a unity of throughout and approach as theatrical exchanges between the two states began in the late 1930’s. Yousif Kassem was one of the original pioneers who played a significant role in the “classical” period, which depended largely on color, space and pomp as compared to the abstract phase of symbolic and representative art.

         Initially, the stage started in schools, then it moved to clubs where small groups of amateurs started their own troupes. It had a difficult time surviving without official financial support. At present, it is prosperous.

         The first schools were launched by religions and civic leaders. Those were Al-Mubarakieh (1911), Al-Ahmadieh (1921), and Al-Hidaeh (1919). The schools, by and large presented plays dealing with Arab history such as Kisra and the Arabs. As to differences in the selection of the plays to be staged, in Kuwait for instance, the religious influence predominated: whereas in Bahrain, the secular did because the Poets and writers were behind the movement of reform. Most of the plays had something to do with heroism, loyalty, and betrayal. All were selected with a view to entertaining a conservative society unaccustomed to seeing its problems, and predicaments articulated before its very own eyes.

         From 1948 onward the clubs, especially the Teacher’s Club in Kuwait started to dominate the scene and to stage plays that dealt with a multitude of issues. The “House of Kuwait” club presented the first composed Kuwaiti play in Cairo: Farce within a Farce, whose idea was thought out by Hamad Al-Rajib and written poetically by Ahmed Al-Adwani. The next play was written in prose (1949) by Hamad Al-Rajib, it was called “Sleepy, Sleepy Sheep”.

         In Bahrain, the Clubs staged plays imported from Lebanon and Egypt by such noted authors as Said Takieddin and Al-Hakim. None of the plays staged included women actors. By 1955 however, Bahrain became almost solely dependent on its own local writers for play-writing,. And by 1945 it started to use women actors by resorting to the subterfuge of foreign women-Arab and essentially Egyptian. Moreover, the fortunes of the Bahraini stage fluctuated from time to time because it lacked financial support and the split in the “Roving Theatrical Troupe” weakened it further. But the persistence of “The Family of Art Amateurs” and the outstanding international and Arab plays it presented since 1957 enabled to survive and expand.

        In Kuwait however, generous official and fixed annual subsidies consolidated, and strengthened the stage and enlarged it. Consequently, the “People’s Stage” was founded in 1957 and adopted the improvised approach to acting and Zaki Toulimat was imported from Egypt to study and improve the stage. By 1961, “The Arabic Stage” was established and the Kuwait stage was able to offer a variety of plays authored by Kuwaitis. As to the use of women, Kuwait followed in Bahraini footsteps and in neither instance has the talent of local women been exploited to the full.

         One of the critical problems facing the stage is the scarcity of qualitative productive output on the part of writers. This in part stems from the ban on writing about matters relating to social values, race, denomination or the introduction of subjects that detract from Kuwaiti or Bahraini authenticity. But sophisticated writing and the technical mastery of the stage could easily overcome these difficulties. Besides the variety of subjects raised concerning comedy, social criticism and political affairs have greatly enriched the Kuwaiti stage, which is also being strengthened by the excellent training rendered by the “Higher Institute of Performing Arts”.

         Finally since the stage has broadened its interests and performed plays dealing with such tropics as boredom, wealth and its abuse, the role of intellectuals as spectators and participants and marriage and the freedom of spouse selection of liberated women etc…..and since it has acquired superb facilities and catered to mature audiences in Kuwait, it appears to be on its way to continued and sustained growth.

        One last observation: the stage is being run by amateurs still instead of professionals. For this reason, it is proposed that Kuwait begins to draw its inspiration from the mainsprings of the theatre – Italy, France and Britain. And this can only be achieved if a sufficient number of scholars and artists become well acquainted with the international scene and transcend the crippling local milieu.

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