Last week, on a Friday, I visited the National Theatre, a landmark since opening in the 1950s, to watch a show. Getting there was a drama by itself.

I called Feres, a taxi-hailing company, for the first time. As I was in a rush to be much earlier from the time the show started, I straight dialled a number I got on the application’s details on the internet. With a voice that sounds tired, yet with a how-come-he-called-here tone, I was referred to their central service centres. I relayed where I wanted to go and was asked to wait for a number.

It was instantly that the taxi came and swung my mood. En route, the power of word of mouth came to my mind, as I heard about the show I was heading to on social media. It was reported that Honoré de Balzac spread the rumour that the premiere of his play Les Resources de Quinola was sold out to prompt demand by exaggerating the play’s popularity. A plan backfired as hordes of would-be attendees returned home, disappointed, before reaching the theatre. I convinced myself as both scenarios would be welcome as I had been to the show five times before.

I arrived at the Ethiopian National Theatre, with its amazing ambience with a promise of much more to come. The show Alqash ena Zefagne, loosely translated to “The Pleuerer and The Bard.” A play written by Fiseha Belay Yimam, it depicts grief and celebration, which seem like strange bedfellows at first glance, yet both emotions that overflow. The play was about the ritual practices that surround wedding and mourning as rites of passage, helping individuals and their communities make sense of gain and loss through a renewed focus on continuity.

While I was waiting along the queue, I was engulfed with thoughts about the theatre's offerings, and with all the play’s pathos, it used to pristinely proffer with the quality or power to evoke feelings of tender pity, compassion or sadness.

Or whether it proves Alexander Pope’s ‘bathos’ quite the opposite, to show descent from the sublime to the depths of the ridiculous?

I was also pondering over the practice of employing mourners for a price to evoke memories of the deceased for rituals in Addis Abeba, before the lead character of the show, in my view, the very promising Kidist Biruk, was even born.

Anton Chekhov wanted in his plays what he wanted to happen in life. In reality, people do not usually kill each other. They talk. So all the actors did their utmost in their script interpretation and the dramatic essence of the role to talk, wrapped in the array of emotions repertoire of the play through its more or less deeper understanding. Above all, the two protagonists epitomized celebration and mourning, with songs and long mournful sorrow-laden wails. Last but not least, it leaves one with wonder for more work from production design, staging and lighting as such technical aspects could have helped the dialogues resonate even more.

It is with enthusiasm that I welcome the upsurge of plays on the stage, especially in the aftermath of COVID-19, and I have a plan to attend two shows every week. Thanks to the burgeoning taxi-hailing industry, I do not even have to worry about being late. If we love theatre, this is time for us to clarify, amplify and glorify the stage, especially on social media.

Too often, we are found complaining about the quality of local productions. But content will not improve unless the arts attract creative people. For this to happen, they need to be supported, not in any sophisticated way but by going to shows and admiring their work.

PUBLISHED ON Mar 19,2022 [ VOL 22 , NO 1142]

Tadesse Tsegaye (, a polyglot with experience in multicultural-cum-institutional settings in resources management.

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