Carthage festival showcases vibrancy of theatre
Tunis - Actors, artists and theatre enthusiasts flocked to the opening of the Carthage Theatre Days, kicking off an eight-day festival. The Avenue of Habib Bourguiba in downtown Tunis was decorated with a symbolic red carpet leading to the Municipal Theatre, the capital’s hallmark performance venue, to mark the event.
Festival visitors were treated to music and street art on the avenue as well as a variety of plays in theatres scattered across the city, as the gala began its 17th edition.
The Carthage Theatre Days programme includes 67 Tunisian performances, 29 Arab shows and 18 from Europe. Morocco, which this year celebrates the centennial of its theatre, is the guest of honour and was represented by five theatrical performances through October 24th.
“This year’s programme is quite extensive in terms of quality and number, treating its goers to quite a mixture of plays from different countries. This edition promises a wealth of plays as well as good quality with shows from all different genres,” said Lassaad Jamoussi, director of the 17th Carthage Theatre Days.
Lassaad ben Abdallah, Tunisian stage director and a participant in the festival, says it is an important cultural event but also a reaffirmation of life despite terror threats.
“Although the festival was always a celebration of art, it takes on a deeper aspect today as it constitutes a celebration of life especially that the culture of life is threatened by the culture of death and terrorism,” he said. “It is a call to keep standing despite all.”
The festival adopted a policy of decentralisation and has had pre-openings in interior regions of Tunisia.
Jamoussi emphasised the importance of the festival’s presence in the interior as an attempt to rejuvenate Tunisian culture.
“It is important to spread the cultural scene to regions that have been denied such shows in the past. It is good for the regions to explore the theatre in a new dimension. People in these places are not familiar with theatre and this would give a new breath to the cultural scene of the region,” Jamoussi said.
Many praised the decentralisation policy but others say even more is needed.
Ben Abdallah said he appreciates the effort of expanding the festival to reach out to regions away from the capital but he added that they should work to create their own festivals.
“The regions need to become more active throughout the year and not just during the festival. They need to create their own productions,” Ben Abdallah said.
“It would be great if each town created its own festival and events to attract people to their towns during the festival. It could also be specific to each region and its culture.”
In addition to shows in the regions, Carthage Theatre Days hosts shows at educational institutions. About 300 theatre events were scheduled for schools.
“This outreach effort aims to sensitise children to the importance of theatre. We want to emphasise the importance of art in forming the personality of children and young people by showing them different genres of artistic expression,” Jamoussi said.
The programme also includes a conference that addresses the status of artists and the intellectual community in Tunisia.
“Artists suffer from economic problems, including lack of funding and stable income. We will try to think of the solutions and way to surmount these troubles,” said Mohamed Amine Ben Hlel, spokesman of the festival.
During the opening ceremony, Jamoussi announced that the festival had prepared the “Carthage Declaration”, which calls for the protection of artists and intellectuals in conflict zones. The declaration will be submitted to the Ministry of Culture, which will present it to the United Nations.
In inaugurating the festival, Jamoussi underlined its role in drawing attention to the vitality of art for people and the country.
“Theatre is the stage for rights and freedoms. It is at the origin of the song of freedom. It is a venue for questioning and doubt amidst the conflict of mankind with the self. Above all, theatre is a civic issue,” he said in a speech at the opening of the festival.