History rains on parade

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The Independent Online

Big tent politics arrived in Libya last night as the history of Africa according to Colonel Gaddafi was played out on a giant stage dressed in the style of a Bedouin camp. It also brought with it an unintended taste of direct democracy as black and white footage of Libya's colonial era hero Omar Al-Muktar drew a roar of approval from the crowd pressed against the fences outside the VIP area.

The people of the People's Republic had been kept at arms length during an arduous afternoon of military parades. But the cheers from thousands who had gathered to watch the stage performance on big screens around the city could be heard from inside the leaders' enclosure. The appearance of Muammar al-Gadaffi, played by a younger actor drew no such reaction. The people's verdict was clear.

The lighting rig, flown in by cargo plane, the French dancers, and even a wall of water onto which a scrapbook of golden moments from the Gaddafi years were projected underlined the point that money had been no object. The VIP seats were strangely half empty as many dignitaries appeared to have opted for early night.

Still the show's French director Martin Arnaud seemed unworried beforehand. Asked if he was concerned of offending the self-proclaimed Imam of the Muslims, he replied: "No. When I've pressed play I'll run to the airport and I'll be gone."