"Iraqi actors have been forced by censorship to express themselves indirectly and through symbols for dozens of years," said interim culture minister Mufid al-Jasairi on Tuesday. 

"Today it is time for the texts to recover their true meaning." He said the plays had been selected by a committee chaired by an adviser from his ministry, Iraqi poet Sadiq al-Saigh. 

"The plays we selected were from old texts which the censors
prevented from being performed before a wide audience," pointed out the poet.

"The plays are again in the hands of producers who were banned under the old regime of terror and repression because they refused to be mouthpieces for a tyrant," he said, referring to Saddam Hussein. 

Gratis

The National Theatre group for popular arts presented folk
dances and modern ballet to the glory of Baghdad and set to the music of singer Kazim al-Sahir. 

The plays, for which all seats are free, began with Concerto, an adaptation of a Chekhov work, at the National Theatre which was spared the March-April bombings and wave of looting that followed the fall of Saddam.

The drama festival runs until Friday (10 December).