'Voices of Baghdad' reflects on Iraqi experience

Actors perform a scene from 'Voices of Baghdad'. [Photo courtesy of 'Voices of Baghdad']

Actors perform a scene from 'Voices of Baghdad'. [Photo courtesy of 'Voices of Baghdad']

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The play "Aswat min Baghdad" ("Voices of Baghdad"), devised in October 2011, won the praise of critics, artists and the public after its recent showing in provinces across Iraq.

The performance revolves around hardships Iraqis have faced since 1980, said Fouad Hanoun, one of the Iraqi actors performing in the play.

Other Iraqi actors include Ali Kareem, Yasser Kareem and Mustafa al-Lami, while Italian actress Annet Henneman both directs and performs in the play.

According to Hanoun, the play uses the theatre style of reportage, which uses the stage as a medium of journalism, telling true stories of people and communities.

"In this play, every character delivers a story taken from experiences in Iraqi society," then as the play unfolds the viewer sees that each story is connected, he said.

The play first showed in the Iraqi Kurdish region, then travelled to five Italian cities, London and recently to the cities of southern Iraq, Hanoun said.

Its success encouraged the actors in the group to prepare other works, Hanoun said, adding that they are currently preparing a new play with Henneman, who he says is very interested in Iraq, its people, atmosphere and culture.

Henneman told Mawtani she feels happy because she realised her "dream of seeing Baghdad and the southern cities of Iraq".

"I love Iraq very much, and I know a lot about it," she said.

"I am very impressed by Iraqi women, and it made me very happy to play a role that depicts their hardship," Henneman said. "I greatly sympathise with the women and the oppressed in countries that went through harsh circumstances."

"Iraq lived through bitter times, resulting in suffering, pain and hardships, and Iraqi women's share in these pains was huge," she added.

Spreading peace and rejecting violence

Theatre critic Zuhair Jayyad said Henneman excelled "in playing the role of the tortured Iraqi woman."

"She made us forget we were looking at a foreign woman who had not mastered the Arabic language, while she delivered her role in English," he added.

"It was a great performance and an enjoyable work of art, and the actors excelled in delivering the essence of Iraqi hardship during those three decades," he said.

"We badly need such theatre groups, which operate with a spirit of humanity and nationalism to deliver the truth of the wounds Iraqis are trying to heal," he said. "There are still those who want to keep [Iraq] bleeding, and by that I mean the terrorists."

Young theatre director Anwar Daoud described the play's direction as "fantastic".

"The way the work was done was a lesson for us young artists, particularly since it was done in a style that was new to us," he told Mawtani.

Daoud said it is important for government agencies, civil society organisations and the media to "form youth groups to present such performances on a regular basis".

"If reportage theatre became popular in Iraq, it would help refine each individual, raise his or her awareness, develop his or her intellectual capacities, and spread a spirit of citizenship and peace while rejecting discrimination and violence," Daoud said.

In addition, such plays presented in other countries "would have a great influence in conveying our culture and delivering our messages abroad", he said.