By Heidi Trautmann
Just south of Louroudjina, with a piece of no man’s land in-between with a wire fence drawn, there on the market place of Limbia, the local theatre association has invited the North Cypriot Kyrenia Theatre Group to join the 6th Theatre Festival in the Southern part of the island. The festival started on August 23 and has ended on September 2. On this very day the Theatre Festival in North Cyprus will commence.
Derman Atik, the director of the Kyrenia Theatre Group, had invited me to come and spend the day of performance in Limbia with them which would give me the opportunity to meet the members of the group, to see how they work as a theatre team. A theatre group which was established 11 years ago in Kyrenia and which was lately known as GIBETSU. A theatre group consisting of 35 members with a passion for the theatre. They are all working to earn their living but spend their free time for the theatre. The premises of Kyrenia Municipality are no longer available for them for political reasons after the last elections.
“We are not doing this for money”, all exclaimed, “but we need some support for the technical side of it, for stage material, transport, advertising, etc. We do everything ourselves, the planning and construction of the set, the props and costumes.” They say that with some pride… “in-spite of everything, we will not give up.” A theatre without a stage. “We shall be performing on all kind of stages around the island and abroad until we find a home again.” The group has been performing in Turkey last and went there with all their group members and equipment and will next go to Greece upon invitation of the local theatre association.
A group of people of all ages bound together by their passion. Many of them I know. Derman Atik is the motor of it, Derman Atik, the director and actor. He has been offered a place at another theatre company but he said he would not give up his own theatre group. Derman Atik with his full resounding voice filling all spaces. Prior to this event I had seen him working with children in Catalköy.
“It is important”, Oya Akin, co-director in the present play, said to me, “it is important to give young people, amateur theatre people, a chance to measure themselves, with the established theatre companies here they cannot easily come to the surface, and so it is important to have a theatre company like this.”
The Kyrenia Theatre Group has an excellent and sound reputation, they are professionals and have the respect of established theatre companies as I have heard expressed myself by Osman Alkaş, who spoke of Derman Atik and his group with high respect.
I spoke to the other actors of the present play The Professional; with Cenk Gürcağ who is a teacher at a Kyrenia primary school, where he has established a children theatre group and he just loves this work; and I asked Yonca Altay, an English teacher, how her husband copes with her being away so often for rehearsals. “My husband Ulaş Baris is a journalist working for Cyprus Today, but he is also a musician and plays with his band many evenings a week. So we have to share duties.” Şoner Eminağa, an elderly actor with a wild bush of white hair, having a part in the play as one of the mad writers. There is Levent Cantürk, a Turk from Bulgaria, who is a computer engineer and shares his talent with the group and manages technical effects. Özgür Özdüral has translated and adapted the play The Professional by the Serb Dusan Kovacevic known for his films, for example The Underground.
It is a psychological play which relies mostly on text, a play for four actors, a play about writers and a state publishing house, the manager being observed by a man from the intelligence services, who finally wants to clear his conscience before he dies. He records every word of the meeting and at the end he turns over the tape to the manager with the words start writing, it is your play… and the play starts all over again.
A very pretentious play for good actors.
We are still not there. It is still afternoon. The van with the set had arrived and men start building up the scene with Derman Atik giving a helping hand. Derman is everywhere. We others sit around in the shade of trees and Ilkşen, Derman’s wife and also art director, organises the “camp” life with food and drinks. Young girls group together and sing popular songs. A small girl grasps the microphone and makes her appearance on stage singing and dancing, the next theatre generation.
The stage set is coming alive with more and more details with the help of stage director Ayla Cağla Öztasçi; some extra props are delivered by members of the local theatre group, with Anna Landou being one of them, flower pots, mirrors and paintings for the wall. The lighting man Yaşan Kadiroğlu adjusts new spot lights and rehearses the effects; the actors make a last rehearsal, clearing things and getting used to the stage floor. Hundreds of white chairs are waiting for guests to come, the open “theatre house” in the centre of a village, in the village park, next door is the children’s play ground. Motorbikes racing around making a hell of a noise all afternoon but the traffic in the area will later be diverted.
And then the guests arrive to enjoy a theatre evening, Turkish and Greek Cypriots, the evening sky has turned purple with the sun setting, filling the rows of white chairs. And the play starts, and there will always be theatre, and there will always be people to come to a play in-spite of everything, no language barriers, no barriers at all.