Theatre in Uganda is thriving! Yet theatre is still struggling, the argument is not just about the traffic not filling auditoriums but even the quality of theatre being showcased.
At times works that come to the theatre are not good, yet even when the good ones are presented, there’s usually a very small audience to consume it.
And these are challenges that today Asiimwe Deborah Kawe will have to face as she debuts the third edition of the Kampala International Theatre Festival at Ndere Center in Kampala.
First organized in 2014, the theatre festival was mainly created to provide a platform for theatre makers showcase their work as well as theatre lovers to see what the art has to offer in a single space; but that wasn’t all, the inaugural edition also taught us that theatre isn’t necessarily a raised platform known as a stage and an audience.
That show introduced us to make shift theatre happening in open spaces in other incidents, the entire production happened with both the audience and cast on the same stage or theatre with subtitles, silent and movement.
But besides shinning the light on the different forms of theatre, the festival usually tends to challenge stake holders while engaging and forcing them to collaborate at the same time, for instance, during many of the productions last year, you had Ugandan directors on productions from Kenya and in turn directors from Tanzania on Ugandan productions.
The two editions of the festival, even with the level of creativity and artistry have not raised dust though, the inaugural one two years back had a lukewarm attendance and so was that of last year.
This year, with the festival gaining a strong ground among Ugandan theatre makers, it comes back when the problems that have faced theatre persist, for instance, the Uganda National Cultural Centre that has been the home of theatre for long rarely has productions and it has been ages since they had a production there.
However, talking to Culture Unlimited, an Arts and Culture online radio, Asiimwe noted that she’s very optimistic about this year’s edition thanks to the young energy in the industry; “There’s a new wave of Ugandan writers doing very amazing works.”
And thankfully, she has these people’s productions in the festival – with productions like Black, by Aganza Kisaka, Kawuna by Coutinho Kemiyondo and the opening production, The Audience Must Say Amen by Peter Kagayi among others.
Kagayi becomes the first Ugandan to have a production open the festival after Ster City from South Africa and Moi, Monsieur et Moi from Senegal in 2014 and 2015.
“We are looking at having more Ugandan productions even for the future, we want Ugandans to own the festival,” Asiimwe says.
Kagayi’s opening production was initially a poetry production curated to set pace for the release of his first anthology, The Headline That Morning, however, after impressing many especially with poems like The Audience Must Say Amen, In 1965 or 2031 in History Channel.
More people wanted to see more of the production, Kagayi is happy that the production is becoming something bigger than he anticipated though Asiimwe notes that her reason to curate the production was to expose the different types of theatre to those coming.
First published in The Observer