“Unhealthy Sewage” Revitalizes Yemeni Theater

National Yemen

By Tamjid Alkohali

After more than twenty years, popular theater in Yemen has returned with a play called Unhealthy Sewage, now playing at the Hurricane Cinema in Aden. The play was presented on the first day of Eid Al-Adha, October 4th, and continued until the 18th of the same month.

The play has won the admiration of many people in Aden. More than 500 people, from all segments of the community and ages, attend the play every day, though the price of a ticket isn’t cheap at 1000 YR.

Unlike other recent theatrical performances, which are just government propaganda, Unhealthy Sewage has a moving story that has touched many people.

According to the play’s director Amr Gamal, Unhealthy Sewage is the eighth play by the Aden Gulf Theater Troupe. It’s a comedic and political play, that compares the past situation and present situations of Yemen and presents three kinds of the corrupt figures in society who spend state funds for their personal benefit and not for the public interest.

After opening the stage curtain, the stage looks like an incomplete bathroom where all events take place without any interruption for one and a half hours, divided into three parts. There are five actors.

The first part features a husband with his wife from the old generation while the second part is also a husband with his wife but from the new generation. The third part has a plumber who represents the lower classes.

The end of the play is painful, represented by a wall in the bathroom falling on the heads of the actors, killing them all.

Despite the end being sad, the play was wonderful and delivered a message about the importance of partnership and tolerance among people and generations, closing the page on the past.

The play was attended by a large number of people as well as prominent figures such as writers, journalists, and artist who expressed their admiration of the play.

Fouad Ali al-Shargabi, the manager of the Yemen music house, was one of the prominent attendees who attended the play.

According to him, the first time he heard about the title, he considered it a heavy and provocative title, at and asked the director Gamal to change it.

“At that time Gamal smiled with a happiness in his eyes which means that he has reached his goal. He agreed to change the title but after publishing the play’s ads, which increased my admiration of Gamal and his belief in himself,” he said.

Al-Shargabi explained the reasons that made the play distinctive from other plays. He said that continuing the play for an hour and a half without any interruption was a challenge and the first experience in the Yemeni theater, which is over 100 years old. The text was also very bold and was written very carefully, and the meaning was near to the hearts of many people. It revealed the intentions of the corrupt people in the country, whether in the system or in the opposition, who achieve their goals using the name of country or revolution. The decor of the play, represented by bathroom, had a lot of details that can be seen even in the absence of actors.

“Concentrating the audience for an hour and half without getting bored indicates a strong performance and professional actors,” he added.

Researcher and historian Bilal Ghulam Hussain preferred to talk about the play from a historical aspect, remembering the beautiful memories of the past.

According to Hussain, he didn’t expect that he would go to Hurricane Cinema to attend a play again, since it has been closed since 1990.

“While I was entering the theater, I remembered all my memories of childhood and boyhood when I was waiting eagerly for the start of the play, and I would go back home happily after a long time of laughing,” he said.

Hussain confirmed that the play could return trust between the community and the theater. It deserves to be compared with international plays.

“I hope Unhealthy Sewage can be a starting point for Yemeni theater and encourage other theater troupes around Yemen to develop theatrical work and to make it a way to express concerns and problems of people and propose solutions,” added Hussain.

Unhealthy Sewage proves that people still desire theatre.