Besides being a public-relations adviser for oil companies, Robert Liddington is chairman of the Abu Dhabi Dramatic Society. As well as running the society, an affiliate of The Club, he produces and direct shows.
How did you get involved in the drama society?
I've being doing drama since I was about five years old. When I moved to Abu Dhabi eight years ago, it was a natural thing to find a drama society and join up. The Club was founded in 1962 and in 1969 the [drama] society was formed officially. The very first production was The Boyfriend. I ended up being the chairman. That was about four years ago now.
I hear you put on a pretty good Christmas panto.
We do between four and six productions a year. At the moment we're doing Dial M for Murder. This year's panto is Cinderella and we are way into rehearsals already. I am the producer.
We rehearse on Sundays and Tuesdays, always in the evening because everybody is working. Then when it comes to actual production, there's the dress rehearsal and technical stuff.
If am directing a show or highly involved then it takes up pretty much most weekends and a couple of evenings a week.
Is performing in Abu Dhabi different from in other places?
It's a little bit of a surprise when you first get here and you realise every single performance has to be licensed by the authorities.
You have to submit documents and a copy of the play to the Ministry of Information before you actually do it. And every single performer has to be licensed for every single production: everyone who is on the stage has to have permission from their sponsor to perform.
Have you ever been declined permission to perform a play?
I've had a few problems getting a licence to do The Rocky Horror Show here, but that's not with Abu Dhabi, that's with the owner of the copyright. I've made four applications over the past four years to get amateur performance rights and they've been refused each time. I have no idea why. It's not easy to get anyway [and] because we are in Abu Dhabi it's even more not easy to get.
Have you had any particular tour de force?
One of my most interesting experiences was directing a production of Waiting for Godot. Amateur theatre is generally whodunnits and farces and that's the main fare of [our] group; but doing something as challenging as Waiting for Godot is a bit different. I did it in the open air on the beach and did some unusual things and some reinterpretations that you wouldn't be able to do in a theatre.
Can anyone come see you perform?
The performances are open to anyone who is interested, you don't need to be a member of The Club. The proceeds of tickets go to drama club and at each of the shows we ask for a donation for the programme. The drama society sponsors a particular charity each year, this year it's Operation Smile. Typically we raise about Dh10,000 (US$2,772) to Dh15,000 a year. It's not a massive amount but every little helps.