KHARTOUM (Sudanow.info.sd) – Mohammad Abdallah Musa, a rising star in the Sudanese comedy, has in a few years managed to force laughter from the lips of his growing audience by virtue of his superb performance in some of the hits aired by the TV channels and on the different theatres.
Most outstanding was his role in the Serial Hikayat Sudaniyya (Sudanese Tales), aired on the Al-Shurouq satellite channel and the play al-Nizam Ureed (the Regime Wants) which was presented on the country’s different stages and on several theatres outside the country.
Al- Nizam Yreed was inspired by the Arab spring in which youths of many Arab countries rose up to call for political change uttering the famous slogan Al-Sha’ab Ureed (people want). Conversely, in the play it was the ruler who wanted to replace his people with another.
Musa had also shone in many plays as part of the works of the Open Air Theatre and in theatrical shows presented in the camps of internally displaced people around the country.
Musa wholeheartedly responded to a call by Sudanow to speak about the state of affairs of the Sudanese theatre and his personal experience as an actor.
Q: Please tell us about your beginnings as an actor, whether you were induced by anybody to become an actor or was it your own choice?
A: In the different sporting activities there could be someone who might have directed you towards a certain activity. But acting is a different story. Here you must have a solid seed which is qualified to grow up and bear fruit.
At the primary school I used to mimic my teachers and classmates who had different speaking characteristics like stammering, stuttering and so on. Some of my teachers had used to encourage me saying I would make a successful actor in the future.
At the intermediate school we launched a literary society that organized weekly symposia. We also set up an acting troupe that presented some sketches touching upon different ideas and topics.
As a secondary school boy I joined the Youth and Children Palace for more learning. I also joined the Omdurman Youth Centre where I came across a teacher with an eye on talents who encouraged me so much.
Then I enrolled in a drama course that taught us acting techniques and body language. There I met Mr. Khairy Akoad who opened doors for me as a dramatist.
Then I joined the College of Music and Drama and graduated with a B.A. After graduation I taught at the College as part of my national service duty.
Q: How do you rate the Sudanese drama at the moment?
A: Drama has, in general, declined in the Arab Region. The present wars and conflicts had disrupted the arts. Production has dwindled too much, Sudan no exception. Just imagine that Sudan had produced twelve serials during 1990-2000 and just two serials during 2000-2016.
Still, we are in a better position compared with other countries. For instance, the Ashorouq TV channel has continued to steadily produce drama works for seven years in a row. The Sudan National TV has produced many works. Last year the National TV broadcast serials for Sayyid Jirsa, myself, Adil Nyala , Mukhtar Bakheet and Samar Madani. There are drama shows, though not as required.
Q: The problem of the Sudanese drama is a problem of finance. Is that right?
A: True! Production needs money and the more money you spend the better production you can have. If you spend less money, the work will be poor and may need rewriting and re-production. Works of art need special allocations independent from all other cultural institutions. Works of art have great value in directing public opinion, so we should respect and give them time and money.
Q: The Sudanese actor is often accused of acting, not performing casually!
A: We should accept what the audience says, whether it is positive or negative. However, the ruling that the Sudanese actor is not casual is wrong and, if it appears feign, this can be justified. This phenomenon occurs when there is no continuous production. Here the actor, because of the long stop, may appear perplexed or afraid of the camera or the text. This is because our work is seasonal, from Ramadan to Ramadan or one month on and one month off. But the Sudanese actor is an established artist. It is the meagre production that gives us the impression that the actor is acting.
Q: How do you assess the open air theatre experiment?
A: The open air theatre is one of very important experiments of the al-Shorouq TV channel. It is my hope that such an experiment could be emulated by other channels. I always call this show a daily or weekly column where the current developments and problems are dramatized and discussed. It is a misconception to say that drama resolves problems. Drama just exposes problems. Solutions come from the audience and the authority, if need be. The dramatist presents the issue in the form of a story and leaves the rest for the others. This open air theatre is now seven years old. Had it not been successful, it could not have continued all that time. It is healthy to have a street theatre. That is a theatre we need. Here the spectator can see the show on air. Then it is recorded and replayed on the screen. I have seen such programmes in the U.S.A and France. The open air theatre is a serious, educational and purposeful show that presents the problem as a warning to the citizen and the authority. It is a successful programme for which I seize this opportunity to thank the Al-Shorouq TV very much.
Q: The play al-Nizam Ureed (the regime wants) was said to have persuaded the public back to the theatre. Tell us about this success.
A: Because I am part of this work, I can’t speak about it. However, I will say what others have said about it:
The play has continued on the stage for four years. No other play has lived that much, save those of the late al-Fadil Saeed and the al-Asdiqa’a (friends) troupe, namely the latter’s al-Muharrij (the clown). Those were works to remember.
Al-Nizam Ureed has discussed a current affair in the Arab World. It has tackled this region’s revolts and struggles. That is why it has continued on the stage for four years, including shows in France, Spain, the U.S, Malaysia and China. It continued on the Friendship Hall stage for two years and eight months at the National Theatre. And that is enough proof of its success.
Q: Do you attribute this success to the many stars who performed it on the stage or to the topic it displayed (the Arab upheavals), as a subject very close to the interest of the audience?
A: The two together! I always say that the cast that presented the show was a cocktail of two generations of dramatists: The generation of the al-Asdiqa’a troupe and the 2004-2005 generation. It was a mix of theatre pioneers and young generations. That was enough recipe for its success. Moreover, the script was ‘very pure’ and indisputable. Every actor was aware of his role. Production-wise it was an excellent work. Producer Jamal Abdel Rahman is one of the brilliant producers in our country. He knows how to produce and market his work. Over and above, the work is beautiful and intact. That is why it was successful. Also I should say that the cast was splendid. It brought together heavyweights like Dr.Faisal Ahmad Sa’ad, Mr. Mohammad Naeem Sa’ad, Mr.Jamal Abdel Rahman (producer and actor), Ms. Ekhlas Nureddin, Ms. Samya Abdallah and the young Director Abubakr al-Saikh and the rest of the team. This group has constituted an artistic mechanism that served the work in its entirety and materialized an excellent experiment which has, sure, left behind an impression. That is the real cause behind the play’s success. Any work that needs reformulation is doomed to failure.
Q: Tell us about the role of the previous generations in establishing the foundations of the Sudanese theatre.
A: It was tremendous role. If it were not for those pioneers, we could not have seen works like Al-Nizam Ureed or al Muharrij and the other masterpieces. For when you want to present a work of art, you have to look into what your predecessors have done. On this occasion I pay tribute to all who had contributed to promotion of our theatrical movement: Makki Sinada, Moahmoud Siraj, the late al-Fadil Saeed, the late Osman Hummaida, the late playwright Hamadnallah Abdel Gadir and all the rest of the vanguards of the Sudanese drama.
Q: Were you influenced by any of those pioneers?
A: I can’t call it influence. But you can call it a reference, a basis. I feel that Mohammad Naeem Sa’ad was such a reference, though I had no previous personal contact with him. But I used to feel so happy to see him on the stage. I believe Sa’ad is a first class actor and director, who commands good movement on the stage and communicates ideas very well to the audience. I always say that Sa’ad is the scholar of the Sudanese theatrical movement. Tribute is also due to Mr. Jamal Hasan Saeed who gave me my roles in two of his famous plays. Saeed was concerned that we become part of the script and that was a novelty and we hope that the new generations could learn from him. Saeed has also nurtured a number of artists including Mukhtar Bakeit, Mahmoud Abdellatif and Siham Badr. We continue to keep bonds with and take roles in Saeed’s works.
Q: There are actors who shy away from seeing their works when the show is over. Are you one of these?
A: It is very important for the actor to see his works to discover points of weakness; otherwise his works will be all the same. You need to see your work whether by obtaining a copy of it or by viewing it on the media. The artist should also keep contact with the society and should not live in isolation. He has to frequent the marketplaces, the bus terminals, watch the movement of the public .. you should keep in touch with the society. Patients go to the doctor in his clinic. Equally, the actor should go to the audience to learn about their problems and reflect them on the stage. The artist who lives in seclusion will act without any feeling about the issue he tackles on the stage, because he hasn’t seen it in real life. When the actor goes to a house of mourning, he should not sit like the rest of mourners. He has to watch and see how the mourners and those who serve them say and do. The actor should do the same in wedding ceremonies. There you can also see all the characters which you may one day need to imitate on the stage, the radio or on the screen. That done, you will not need extra effort to represent the details of the character you are representing. That is because you have already seen such a person in reality and your performance will, thus, be casual and natural.
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