x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

A Ard El Ghajar offers colourful look at life's unexpected turns

As one of DSF's main events, an original Arabic musical 'On The Land of the Gypsies' by the Rahbani family, will make its Dubai this week debut following a successful run in Lebanon. We speak to director Marwan Rahbani for more details.

On the Land of Gypsies comes to Dubai for the first time this weekend. Courtesy Marwan and Ghady Rahbani
On the Land of Gypsies comes to Dubai for the first time this weekend. Courtesy Marwan and Ghady Rahbani

The acclaimed show A Ard El Ghajar completed a four-month run in Lebanon last year. It tells the story of the billionaire Salvado Kozhaya Hussein, who returns home to Lebanon from Brazil to find the land he had inherited overtaken by gypsies. An inevitable conflict unfolds.

People of the land

The black comedy is one of Dubai Shopping Festival's main events (brought to the UAE by Dubai Events and Promotions Establishment) and will play at Burj Park. The musical was written, composed and produced by Ghadi Rahbani, the director Marwan Rahbani's brother, and will be their fourth collaboration with DSF. It stars Ghassan Saliba, Aline Lahoud, Paul Sleiman and Pierre Chamoun, who are joined by 70 performers.

"When he [Salvado] arrives in Lebanon and checks his inherited land, which he has in mind to build a villa for his fiancée, he finds it does not quite look like how it does in the pictures. The land is now full of tents where gypsies have taken over it," says Marwan.

Salvado realises the gypsies are backed by the Lebanese government - solely for voting purposes.

"He then quickly sees their love of life, of music and just begins to focus on the positive side. He falls in love with one of the gypsies, who turns out to be a daughter of their leader, which creates more conflict. The performance asks the question: 'What is more important, the land or the people?' Yet, we know each has no value without the other," says Marwan.

Universal language

Although the production is in Arabic, Rahbani says it will appeal to an international audience. The show also features stylised and colourful costumes and music recorded by the Kiev Symphony Orchestra.

"Our plays are always very visual and we provide a libretto in English. It's like being at an opera; you don't always know the language but you follow what you see," he says. "In Lebanon, we had people from around the world attending and they did not miss a thing."

Reviews have been positive, he says. "It is a very modern script, which incorporates many new elements. I would describe it as a black comedy because, through it, you can also laugh at yourself. It is very reflective in that sense because you can choose any character on the stage and you will see yourself," he says. "The ending is very surreal and completely unexpected."

A crazy night

With its productions, the Rahbani family aims to incorporate fun elements into challenging subjects. "It's a crazy play. Everything is new, from the setting, stage to costume and music - new to the Rahbani legacy," Marwan says.

On the Land of Gypsies will show tonight until Saturday at Burj Park Downtown Dubai. Doors open at 8pm. Tickets start at Dh200 and are available at Virgin Megastores

melshoush@thenational.ae