Theatre buff Hassan al-Abd al-Rahman still remembers his start almost 30 years ago on stage in Qatar. His interest in theatre began growing, especially with the influence of local Arabs, especially Egypt immigrants and Qatari students who returned after completing studies in art and theatre in Baghdad or Cairo.
But Qatari theatre witnessed a period of decline during the past decade before making a recent comeback.
Al-Shorfa met al-Rahman during a performance this month of the play "Kulni, Ya Janab al-Sultan" by the Doha Theatre Troupe at the Qatar National Theatre.
"Since Doha was chosen to be the capital of Arab Capital of Culture in 2010, and with the beginning of preparations for hosting this event, the process of internal restoration of the [Qatar National Theatre] in Qatar began," he said.
"True, it was not shut down completely prior to that, but the reality of the situation was monotonous and tiresome until 2010 when theatre timidly returned to the country. Then, 2011 was the beginning of a promising return for this theatre, which is among the primary theatres in the Arab Gulf."
The play "Kulni, Ya Janab al-Sultan" was a milestone in the history of Qatari theatre, according to its Qatari director Ali Mirza Mahmoud. "This play was a response to the events of the Arab spring and the revolutions it witnessed, painting the life of the average citizen," he told Al-Shorfa. He said it received an overwhelming popular response when performed at the 15th edition of Carthage Theatre Days in Tunisia this month.
Other Qatari works performed at Arab theatres were also widely welcomed, including the play "Majarih", which recently took part in the Arab Theatre Festival in the Jordanian capital Amman.
Theatre critic Jalil al-Badri says, "'Majarih is an asset to the history of Qatari theatre, which has begun recovering from its slumber. This play was able to foster interaction between actor and spectator, as director Nasser Abd al-Redha succeeded in effectively employing the scenography and creating cohesion between folk art and dialogue."
Qatari theatre actor Hamad al-Rumaihi describes theatre in Qatar as "characterized by sustained activity and development, whether at the level of the script or the actors, technicians and directors. The best proof of this is that the last few years have featured distinctive theatre performances in terms of script, directing and acting at a high degree of professionalism."
However, al-Rumaihi pointed to a wave of decline that has affected the Arab theatre in general due to its lack of serious theatrical works.
"Most theatre performances are consumerist and do not reflect the reality of our situation. Plus, the public is turning away from theatre, instead going for consumerist performances devoid of intellectual or aesthetic value."
The Qatari minister of culture recently announced a plan to create theatres for youth and children this year, telling the Qatar News Agency that this comes as part of the ministry's efforts to further the cultural interaction Doha experienced as the Arab Capital of Culture.
According to journalist Ali Hussein Abdullah, director of QatarsHub.com, Qatari theatre needs more support to make an honourable comeback.
"We must establish colleges and institutes concerned with theatre and arts and not just send our students abroad to study them," he told Al-Shorfa. "We also need to establish at least five theatrical performance houses, not just make due with the National Theatre."