Theatre in old Kuwait

OjairiIt is a known fact that overlooking the sea, Kuwait is a fully sea-dependent nation. Kuwaitis used to dive for pearls in summer and sail to India and East Africa for trade in winter. Unlike during pearling expeditions, sailors had enough time to pass by acting some scenes during their voyages.

The first school play was performed at the Ahmadiya School in 1924 during its opening ceremony. Another comedy play was performed in 1938 under the title of ‘The American Daktur (Doctor)’. In the same year, the first serious play in Kuwait’s theatre history was performed under the title of ‘Omar’s Islam’, in which Palestinian teachers and the students exerted considerable efforts to make the performance a wonderful and highly appreciated one.

Women were not allowed to act in the past and so some men, such as the late Mohammed Al-Nashmi, Abdul Razzaq Al-Nafisi, Ali Al-Rasheed, Saeed Shammas and Abdul Aziz Al-Namash had to play female roles. Later, in the 1960s, pioneering female actresses appeared, including Ayesha Ibrahim, Mariam Al-Ghadban, Mariam Al-Saleh, Hayat Al-Fahd and Suad Abdullah.

Thanks to the late Egyptian veteran actor and director Zaki Tolaimat, plays performed in classical Arabic started to flourish in Kuwait. However, the late artist Khaled Al-Musallam played a great role that is unfortunately forgotten in enhancing theatrical activities in Kuwait. He used to gather teachers during the summer vacation and perform plays that highly appealed to audiences, who used to yearn to watch a play because theatre used to be the only means of entertainment during the absence of any clubs or recreational facilities. Audiences often watched the same play over and over every night, because there was always something new, as actors usually improvised their lines and did not memorize the written scripts by heart.

Sheikhs and VIPs also used to attend the performances and watch the plays as eagerly and passionately as the common man at that time. Nowadays, theatre has made gigantic leaps forward and very outstanding performances are presented by highly efficient and talented actors and actresses, through establishing various theatrical groups over the past seven decades. I hope these outstanding artists would go on enlightening, amusing and entertaining the people of Kuwait as well as contribute to building this generous country’s future. – Translated by Kuwait Times from Al-Anbaa

By Dr Saleh Al-Ojairi

Back to top button