At the Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, Cuba, a US Marine has been found murdered. Two Marines in his unit have been charged over his death, prompting one of the most famous court battles in movie history, as Tom Cruise, Jack Nicholson and Demi Moore struggle for supremacy. The Dubai-based theatre company Backstage Productions is staging an adaptation of the Academy Award- and Golden Globe-nominated A Few Good Men, at Ductac, Mall of Emirates, this weekend.
Inspired by true events
The original play by was written by Aaron Sorkin (The Social Network), who was also behind the big-screen adaptation. The story is loosely based on a real-life case in which several Marines almost killed another in a hazing ritual ordered by a superior officer.
In the film, Lieutenant Daniel Kaffee (Cruise), despite having no trial experience, is appointed as the defence lawyer for Lance Corporal Harold Dawson and Private Louden Downey, who are accused of murder. Both insist they were acting under a "code red" order. Colonel Nathan Jessup (Nicholson) vehemently denies the accusation.
Gautam Goenka, the founder of Backstage Productions (Dracula, 39 Steps) and the director of the play, says it is the company's biggest production to date, with a total of 30 cast and crew.
"We felt it would be a great production," says Goenka.
The creative team has stayed true to the original Broadway script, featuring scenes that do not appear in the movie version.
"It's quite a challenge because we will be compared with the film. However, my instructions to the cast were: 'Do not try to imitate the actors who played the leading roles,'" he says. "Instead, they will bring their own flavour and interpretation."
"The message is 'honour, loyalty and code' and what it means to sacrifice for a country. [It gives] an insight into US Marine life," says Goenka. "UAE audiences will relate because it's ultimately about standing up for what you believe, staying true to yourself and following through."
The first half of the play is a build-up to the famous court scene, which takes place during the second half. Actors have been rehearsing for months to identify with the characters and thus cement a truthful portrayal.
"It was tough casting because it wasn't about whether an actor looked the part but more about how much they embraced the character," Goenka says.
Since launching three years ago, Backstage has produced 24 short and full-length plays and welcomes support from the local community.
Meet the cast
For the lead actor Raghd Coussa, from Syria, playing a role once held by Tom Cruise meant setting the bar high.
"I challenged myself to live up to that standard but after starting rehearsals and really feeling the character, that all subsided," he says. "The character embodies nonchalance but there is a core of self-awareness and profound knowledge."
Out of the 18 actors, there is only one woman: Caroline Fernandez, an actress from Canada who takes on Lt Galloway, the role played in the film by Demi Moore.
"I like her character because she's passionate, strong and stands up for her beliefs," Fernandez says. "It's nice to play someone as tough as nails."
Siddarth Thakker, who plays Lance Corporal Dawson, says his character is a razor-sharp "professional Marine".
"It's a dark and intense play. Dawson is seen as a 'Stepford' Marine because he's a perfect soldier. He also has a heart and conscience," says Thakker, who is from India. "However, the audience will relate to him for his ability to be human, not just blindly following codes."
Playing Private Downey is Rafi Yachoua, in his first acting role. "My character offers a fresh sense of what a soldier can be," says Yachoua, who hails from Syria. "He is also quirky, easy-going, fun and reflective. He is willing to talk about and own up in court to things that are happening."