By Nawara Fattahova
The total curfew and home quarantine have helped encourage the development of many new, creative ideas. Since we all ended up spending Eid at home, a group of actors came up with the concept of staging an online play, Al System Wagif (The System is Down), produced by Richter Creative Office.
“After about six weeks of using the Zoom application for some online activities, we gained the knowhow of this application and we became experienced. Eid al-Fitr was approaching, and we noticed that there were no entertainment activities available for Eid. So I contacted popular director and actor Mohammed Al-Hmeli and asked the playwright to come up with something, and the idea of Al System Wagif came to life,” Bader Al-Essa, one of the actors in the play, told Kuwait Times.
The storyline for the online play was inspired by the common refrain by public sector employees: ‘The system is down’ – an all too common facet of ageing bureaucracies. “Most people in Kuwait have faced this situation when they have gone to process their paperwork at any ministry. Lazy employees always say the system is down in order not to work, even if it isn’t true,” Essa explained.
In this show, the main characters hold an official press conference through Zoom, but the system freezes, which forces them to take their discussion directly to the public. The main characters are public officer Bu Najeeb, a businessman who was negatively affected by the coronavirus, a co-op volunteer who is always nervous, a doctor, and a Kuwaiti girl who doesn’t respect expats and is criticized for that.
The online play ran during the three days of Eid – one show daily with an hour of live music and entertainment by a DJ, split into two 30-minute segments. Audience numbers were limited due to the use of the Zoom app, so they stopped selling tickets after reaching this number. “But we noticed the show was missing interaction with the audience, so on the third day we added this function through poll questions and live chat, which was very nice and funny,” said Essa. “We received very positive feedback and reactions beyond our expectation, and our hashtag became a trend on Twitter,” he added.
The audience was not only from Kuwait, as many people had booked from other GCC states, who enjoyed watching the play from their homes in their countries. “So we may repeat this experience in the future after the end of the curfew, but we must improve it more with better decor, outfits, sound effects and so on, as now we only had limited resources due to this situation and short time of preparation,” concluded Essa.
Hmeli, the writer and director of the show, said he is very satisfied with this new experience. “In fact it was hard work and was no easier than regular theatre plays performance-wise, in training and preparing, time constraints, outfits and so on. Our only obstacle was that we didn’t hear and see the audience reaction. So we were imagining and expecting that the audience was laughing. We worked based on a mix of theatre and soap opera, as in soap operas we shoot first and then see the reaction of people,” he explained.