Iraq stages 1st matinee in 3 years

'Sub-Zero' reflects sufferings of Iraqis

BAGHDAD — Residents of Baghdad this week attended a theater matinee. There should be nothing startling in that — except it was the first time in three years any play has been staged anytime after midday in the Iraqi capital.

Appropriately for mid-winter and for the state of the insurgency-wracked nation, the drama staged at the National Theater was entitled “Sub-Zero.”

The short work by young director Imad Mohammed urges Iraqis to defrost the “ice of despair” which has gripped the nation and to cling rather to life and hope in order to shake off the devastating effects of war.

More than 200 people turned out for the one-hour performance Tuesday, held in the afternoon instead of the morning as had become the norm for all-too rare theatrical performances — a sign of the improving security in the Baghdad.

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The two-hander features actors Abdul Sattar al-Basri, who plays the role of a desperate old man who prefers to remain isolated because he is too scared of the dangerous situation outside his home, and Yahya Ibrahim, who plays a young man who tries to draw him out of his cocoon.

Director Mohammed has long wanted to stage a work that reflects the sufferings of Iraqis and tracks the forces which have caused them to live in isolation, fearful of the unknown and the risks outside.

He graduated from the College of Fine Arts in 1999, whereafter he attained a diploma in theatrical directing from the University of Baghdad.

Mohammed has three other plays to his credit since 2003 — “Ashilose’s Return,” “Pawns” and “Stay There, You Gentleman.”