The performing arts are important. They enrich societies and deepen their understanding of the world. The theatre in particular has a prestigious position in Libya, and theatres were built by all the ancient civilisations that existed here. Historic theatres in old Libyan cities such as Badda and Cyrene bear witness to the significance of such places throughout history.
During the seventies, Libyan theatre flourished. Artists injected vitality into the country, creativity was at a peak, the state supported the theatre and the public encouraged the work.
But theatre has not been so successful since, with performances gradually decreasing and the art stagnating. The theatre has gone into deep hibernation due to the economic and political situation in the country.
“The public should not underestimate the theatre’s entry fees. It’s indeed a small amount, but it contributes to the production of artistic works. Free entry would put the final nail in the theatre’s coffin,” says artist Miloud al-Amrouni, adding that theatre in Benghazi is still active despite the difficult last five years. The state does not offer any kind of support, and does not value the theatre and its importance to the community. “Libyan politicians have always disregarded the Libyan theatre.”
“The deterioration of the theatre’s situation could be attributed to the absence of a generation faithful to the theatre, a generation that spends time and effort to create a theatrical art to compete with the theatre of neighbouring countries. Unlike the older generation, the new generation cares only about material issues,” says al-Amrouni.
Al-Amrouni concludes that Libyan politicians should be aware of the importance of art, its message and its role in the construction of the individual. They should pay attention to artists and the theatre and organise festivals and competitions throughout the year. They could gain more expertise through the seminars frequently held after any theatrical performance or symposium.
Jawad Juma, a student and theatre lover, says the deteriorating situation in the country and poor living conditions affect the mood of the people, with a direct impact on Libyan theatre. Moreover, a lack of publicity results in a failure to attract people and encourage them to attend, continuing the decline of theatre activities.
Juma wishes Libyan politicians would pay more attention to the theatre and its importance in building a society’s culture: “It is the finest art, and we must preserve and support it.”
Benghazi Theatre was officially inaugurated in 1928, with several Italian and European plays and musical performances. After World War II caused widespread destruction in the city, the theatre was neglected until the mid-fifties, and then became a cinema known as Cinema Bernichi or Cinema Berniq. It was also used for musical performances, such as a 1969 concert by Egyptian singer Umm Kulthum. It has been closed since the late eighties.