Sudanese theatre enjoys revival after years of war

Mon Apr 4, 2011 8:46am EDT
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By Deepa Babington

KHARTOUM (Reuters) - In an open-air theater by the river Nile, a crowd whistles and claps as actress Huda Mamoon plays a deranged woman chased by a ghost in a white cape.

Mamoon's play on the suffering of women through the ages is part of a theater festival in Khartoum, where Sudan's once flourishing theater scene is enjoying a revival after years of neglect during bouts of economic crisis and war.

"Theater touches us because it speaks to us through our traditions and language," said Hasun Gozoly, a 31-year-old actor and dancer.

"Some Sudanese find it hard to get involved emotionally in messages that come from television and the Internet. But theater and plays pass on a message in a traditional way."

Sudan -- known abroad more for decades of violent conflict and a brutal counter-insurgency campaign in Darfur -- has a long history of theater that ranges from ancient folk drama to contemporary plays that delve into politics and comedy, said Musaab Elsawi, a theater critic for the al-Rai al-Aam daily.

Sudanese theater enjoyed its golden period in the 1960s and 1970s, before floundering during years of economic hardship and civil war, he said. Skepticism from governments keen to keep tight control on public thought did not help either, he said.

"Theater has its own power, it's not like music or singing which is considered just entertainment," said Elsawi.

"Politicians don't always trust artists. The artist has a message, and it makes people think, which can be in conflict with what a politician wants."   Continued...