The controversies, as the local press says, exploded after the show put on at the City Theatre of Istanbul, a public theatre funded by the city and by the government, of "Secret Obscenities", set during the Pinochet dictatorship and directed by the Turkish director Yildirim Fikret Urag. The production has been accused of being vulgar although the show went on for over 70 plays. The issue brought the Prime Minister to intervene and speak of the idea of privatising public theatres. Or, better still (and this is where the reactions came from) Erdogan said the state might finance only those shows which it approves. "If there is a need for funds, then as a government we will sponsor the productions which we want." Basically a form of censorship.
Erdogan backed up his claims saying that the state hands out every year over 60 million euros for about 50 public theatres and getting only 2 million back in profits.
The PM's statement gave way to yet another confrontation between theatre artists and the government after Kadir Topbas, Istanbul's mayor, introduced new rules last April concerning the theatres' management. In other words it set up a committee which not only includes artists, but also officers named by the mayor.
The commission's aim is to decide which productions can be set up in the theatres financed by the council. The artists raised immediate concerns accusing the government of political interference and defining the attacks "a useless witch hunt".
The controversy continued also during the theatre festival of Istanbul where the productions are all set up in private theatres. "I believe there should be a platform also with representatives of the government in order to discuss this problem", the festival's director says. "How could you even think of privatising state theatres? Or to cut the funds and fire those who work behind the scenes? It's absolutely unthinkable". (ANSAmed).