North Cyprus  

Turkish-Cypriot Theatres
When, in 1571 the Turks of Cyprus first settled in the island, they not only brought their labour, and skills, but also the social-customs and traditions, entertainments, arts, and culture. 

Karagöz shadow theatre characters Karagöz and Hacivat

Karagöz shadow theatre characters Karagöz and Hacivat

Click to watch a Karagöz play

Karagöz shadow-theatre, which came to the island with the Turks, can be said to have form the roots of the contemporary Cypriot-Turkish Theatre in Cyprus. However, unfortunately the shadow-play (or shadow theatre) today is seldom performed on a regular basis in public, and mostly watched on the TV on special occasions like on Bayrams.

We now only remember Karagöz, kukla, shadow-theatre, and meddah-plays, which have been a major part of our social and cultural life, with great nostalgia.

Early Days...
Theatre, in the modern contemporary sense started in the island with British influence, after 1878. In the modern sense, the first theatre play was performed in 1880 at a camp in Troodos, as we learn from the book A Historical Recollection of a Bygone Age by Lazarides (pages 91-93). This first theatre play [in Cyprus] was performed in an open air stage, and one of the women roles was played by a male actor.

An early Turkish-Cypriot theatre group.

The theatrical developments following this first performance have proliferated after 1900 at schools, where the students were encouraged to participate in the plays, through social and theatre clubs at schools. During this period, Famagusta was a leading town in the theatrical developments. Due in time, the touring Turkish theatre groups and companies from mainland Turkey have been instrumental in popularizing the theatre in the Turkish-Cypriot community.

A poster of the Turkish-Cypriot State Theatres

A poster of the Turkish-Cypriot State Theatres

By the 1920s, all major towns in Cyprus had Turkish-Cypriot theatre groups, and were performing periodically. 

Especially during the Turkish War of Liberation (1920-22), many plays have been performed by the Turkish-Cypriot theatre groups to raise money for the displaced people and orphaned children as a result of the Greek invasion of western Anatolia, Turkey.

During the 1930s, nationalists plays were performed to raise money for the people affected in Erzincan earthquake, and affected by the Kubilay uprising (both in Turkey).

Plays and Playwrights

A poster of the play "Do Something Met" by the  Nicosia Municipal Theatres

A poster of the play "Do Something Met" by the  Nicosia Municipal Theatres

Numerous plays performed from those days until 1963, some of which are: Namik Kemal's Vatan Yahut Silistre (The Motherland or Silistre), Mesale (The Torch), Coban (The Goatherd), Iftira Kurbanlari (The Victims of Lies), Mucize (Miracle), Akif Bey (Mr Akif), Hababam Sinifi (Hababam Class), Aynaros Kadisi ( Eunuch of Aynaros), Gun Doguyor (Sunrise), Karisindan Korkmayan Koca Yoktur (There is No Husband Not Afraid of His Wife), Duman (The Smoke), Daglari Bekleyen Kiz (The Girl who is waiting for the Mountains), Nalinlar (The Slippers), Kahvede Senlik Var (Festivities at the Café).

Among these were the plays written by Turkish-Cypriot playwrights such as Avukat Fadil Niyazi Korkut, Mufti of Cyprus Sait Hoca, Nazim Ali Ileri, Osman Talat, Hikmet Afif Mapolar , Ismail Hikmet Ertaylan, Talat Yurdakul, Özker Yasin and Üner Ulutug. The other playwrights whose plays have been performed in the recent years are Ahmet Tolgay, Bekir Kara, and Özden Selenge. Dar-ül Elhan, Kardes Ocagi, and Ses Academy were the few institutions working in areas closely related to the Turkish-Cypriot theatres.

Early Venues...
  In the early days of the Turkish-Cypriot theatre, some of the playwrights were also starring in the plays which they wrote, and usually were not compensated, as these plays were thought to be for charitable purposes and were mostly amateur in nature. Come 1940s, the income brought by each play on average was around 40-50 Cyprus Pounds.

A poster of the children's play "Dear Peace" by the Turkish-Cypriot State Theatres

A poster of the 
children's play "Dear Peace" by the Turkish-Cypriot State Theatres

In the last 50 years or so, the buildings used for theatre performances in Nicosia were mostly cinema saloons: Cemalis Cinema, Apollon Cinema, Lukudi Cinema, Papadopoulos Cinema, as well as Kardes Ocagi building, Çetinkaya Spor Kulübü, Belig Pasha Theatre, Zafer Cinema, Misirlizade Cinema, Atatürk Primary School Saloon. 

In Famagusta, theatre salons included Büyük Ambarlar (nr. the Sea Gate), Pertev Pasha Ilkokulu, Othello Tower, Lozan Palace Cinema, Yildiz Cinema, Bugday Camii. 

In Paphos, the theatre buildings were: Yesilova Cinema, Cengiz Topel and Papatya Cinemas. 

In Larnaca Zuhuri Ilkokulu, Larnaca Turkish Club, Makritis Cinema. 

In Limassol Sahin, Taksim, Halk, Pallas, Banseon, Rialto cinemas, 19 Mayis High School saloon. 

In Kyrenia, the theatre buldings included Rushdu Middle School, Kyrenia Castle, and 23 Nisan Ilkokulu saloon.

After 1960

Alikko & Caher, Laurel and Hardy of Cypriot Theatre

Alikko & Caher, Laurel and Hardy of Cypriot Theatre
The Turkish-Cypriot theatre has seen major developments in the post-1960 period. During this period, moves were started to institutionalize this art in the Turkish-Cypriot community, as the new generation of playwrights proliferated such as Hilmi Özen, Üner Ulutug, and Ayla Hashmat. In 1964, the Department of Education provided the Atatürk Ilkokulu saloon for the use of the Turkish-Cypriot Theatres. The works which started at this venue, under the name First Stage continued to receive admire and support of the audiences, as a result of which the theatre received an official status as the Turkish-Cypriot Theatres. And from that day onwards, now with its new name as the Turkish-Cypriot State Theatre performed nearly 85 plays to day, with success.

After 1974, The State Theatre has moved into its new premises in Yenisehir, Nicosia where the Theatres central administrative and artistic center is. The State Theatre performs regularly in its Nicosia venue, as well as in other cities and towns in the country, while travelling once a year to perform Turkish-Cypriots living abroad, notably in UK and Turkey.

One important success of the Turkish-Cypriot theatre has been with a certain radio theatre called Alikko and Caher. The play became very popular for a simple reason that the characters spoke with what was called a very Cypriot [rural] accent of the early years and that the people could find a part of them in the characters.

The Cypriot-Turkish theatres also produces a small number of celebrity actresses, among them Mine Senhuy, who stars in the popular television series Bizimkiler, on a Turkish televison, and Ayhatun Atesin, who is famous for her successful performance in one-person play of Willy Russel's One Woman: Shirley Valentine in 1993.

Private Theatre Companies

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