The assistant secretary general of Sierra Leone Centre of the International Theatre Institute (SLCITI), Salami Carew, has ascribed the slide to oblivion of the theatre in the country to the closing down of the city hall in Freetown. He said the theatre would have been alive only if former Mayor Alfred Akibo Betts had not closed down the city hall from the usage of the theatre by various groups which existed before the war.
Mr Carew, who spoke exclusively with Awoko, upheld that it was true that the war had a tremendous effect on the practitioners’ art, adding that the singular act by the city council to take over the place from theatre enthusiasts was the beginning of the nose diving of activities of the theatre in the capital. His words: “Since Akibo closed down the city hall, it led to the death of the theatre. We do not have anywhere to rehearse which we can call ours anymore. You find out that except for the British Council, other areas are purely makeshifts…the amphitheatre at Fourah Bay College is out of it because it is difficult to ferry people up there”. He revealed that they had to resolve to “developmental theatre because most youths have been in a quandary because they do not have their minds made up concerning where to go when they are pressed to watch a live performance”.
Mr Carew called on the government to construct a theater for practitioners and new entrants to have a place to rehearse and to interact with the masters in the field for their speedy developments. According to him, “the only remaining space which is shared by practitioners is the Globe Cinema which is really meant for those purposes”. Lamenting on the myriads of problems choking the industry, Salami regretted that “the existing theatre groups are not as vibrant as was in the days of ‘poyo tong wahala’ and many others which were the harbingers of satirical messages and enlightenment to the masses”. “We are not too happy with the present registration because members have not been able to list as regular as possible into our register. We have about fifty groups but I am very sorry to announce to you that only five of them have registered properly so far” he said.
Mr Carew revealed that a training exercise for theatre groups would begin in Freetown April, adding that by July they would have trained interested practitioners in the provinces. The assistant secretary general told Awoko that this year’s theme “theatre and freed slaves; what is the connection between them in the development of the culture of the people of Sierra Leone” was apt to send messages of enlightenment to fresh admissions and old practitioners alike about the commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the abolition of the slave trade.
He praised playwrights like Raymond DeSouza George (Papa Ray), Dr Julius Spencer and Charlie Haffner for their contributions to the historical achieves of the unforgotten years of slavery.