Community theatre on the agenda as part of Manama Capital of Culture
Time Out Bahrain staff
We all know that, as part of the Manama Capital of Culture 2012 activities, the island is to get its own brand-new, national theatre by the end of the year. But in a separate move, a community theatre, aimed at catering to all the country’s various groups, is springing up alongside it, hopefully to be housed in the national theatre building.
The concept is the brainchild of Irishman David Hollywood who came to Bahrain three years ago and, having been involved with amateur theatre for many years, looked for a group to join.
“I found there were basically two organisations,” he said. “The Indian theatre which puts on fine productions but is mainly for the Indian community working with the Indian school. And then I discovered the Manama Players, so I joined up and had a great time with them for two and a half years either acting or behind the scenes.
“But, they mainly tend to be British oriented and I realised there wasn’t a company reflecting the local culture and values – Bahraini but taking in all the other groups who call this island home.
“I belong to Bahrain Writers’ Circle and chair the poetry section. Since we’re a group for all nationalities with around 170 members, I decided to put it out there and see if there would be any interest in forming a really inclusive theatre group and the response was phenomenal, really positive.
“That gave me the confidence that it could work. I wanted it to be a true reflection of the way in which we live today in Bahrain and very much community-based, hence the name Bahrain International Community Theatre.
“I knew that I needed to start to give the idea some structure so I approached the Ministry of Culture who put me in touch with the art director of the new national theatre, Andrea Porcheddu, who fell in love with the idea.
“Knowing there was the prospect of encouragement from that source I then started to approach various institutions around the island to see if there would be support and, once again, I was amazed at the response so it was then time to look at our skills base.
“We’ve just had our first proper meeting to establish the skills we already have to hand and where we have gaps – you have to bear in mind that a theatre company is not just about the actors and actresses you see on the stage but there is everything from set designers and lighting technicians to make-up and costume and the people who deal with the finances and take the tickets on the door.
“Bahrain doesn’t have a culture of theatre, up to now there has been no encouragement for it, except within a couple of the ex-pat schools, and we want to change that.”
Buoyed with the amount of enthusiasm and potential support he had encountered, Hollywood set about writing to educational theatre companies which have a system of outreach programmes around the world.
To his amazement, one of those which expressed a strong interest was RADA (Royal Academy of Dramatic Art), the London-based school which is widely regarded as one of the finest in the world.
Now he is in talks with RADA to set up a series of workshops here in Bahrain with the eventual aim of establishing a one-year theatre studies and stage craft course with one of the country’s universities, hopefully to be followed by a graduate programme, run under the auspices of RADA, which would give students certification which would be recognised from Hollywood to Bollywood.
He continued: “It’s not finalised yet, but I’m very optimistic and, with the new national theatre coming online, the idea would be that our students would eventually feed into the professional sector. Initially the national theatre will need to operate with people brought in from outside when it stages performances, we want to create a home-grown talent pool that it can draw on.”
Hollywood hopes a collaboration with the national theatre will lead to gifted community theatre members being able to rehearse alongside international actors, dancers and musicians who come to perform – and there are certainly some big names in the pipeline.
He has also been in discussions with the Twickenham Film Group (TFG) which recently announced its intention to build a film studio and academy on the island and he hopes the two groups can work together.
All in all, there are some ambitious plans afoot with hopes that the group will have its first performance to tie in with the opening of the national theatre scheduled for December.
If you would like to get involved, the next meeting of the Bahrain International Community Theatre Group is set for September 18 at Café Ceramique in Al A’ali Mall or you can call David Hollywood on (39 207 624).