x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 28 July 2017

A place where children are the stars

A new theatre company is opening in Dubai in January, and is aimed at preparing children and teenagers for on stage success. The British actress and author Hayley Doyle, founder of the company, tells us more.

Students of Haley's Comet Theatre Company write and perform their own pieces. Photo by Tonya Colson
Students of Haley's Comet Theatre Company write and perform their own pieces. Photo by Tonya Colson

From starring in the musical Mamma Mia in London's West End to opening a company in Dubai, Hayley Doyle says she aims to fill the theatre gap.

Doyle, who is from Liverpool, England, says she developed a passion for theatre as a toddler. She trained at the Liverpool Institute for Performing Arts and has performed as a soloist with the Royal Liverpool Philharmonic Orchestra. She has published two novels including The Day She Met Shirley Temple, which won the Curtis Brown Award. Doyle has also produced shows for the Edinburgh Festival and has written soap operas for radio.

Hayley's Comet offers classes for 6- to 15-year-olds at the art space Traffic in Dubai. Students write plays or musical showcases, which are performed at the end of every term. They will also work alongside established actors in the field.

"I have a list of people from London's West End who would love to come over and conduct workshops," says Doyle. "In the UK, there are hundreds of drama schools with students working with old-school actors, and here it's a new industry which is moving fast in that direction."

Classes at the company are open to beginners and advanced performers.

Stand out from the crowd

Doyle says she is confident that her new company will be successful because, as an actress, she understands what it takes to make it in the industry. She adds that students benefit from belonging to a company.

"I went to hundreds of auditions and had agents. I also started a theatre company with friends to create original material," she says. "In sports, an athlete must always train and it's the same with acting. You have to keep practising. Our company toured the whole of the UK and various festivals, which kept us working."

The experience, she explains, inspired her to start a company for children.

"I realised it would be amazing for kids because they have no boundaries. They don't question the magic of theatre," Doyle says.

In theatre circles, it is increasingly common for people to write their own scripts and be open to trying new things, and Doyle says she believes this can be replicated in the UAE.

"There is a real hub in England because it's the heart of theatre, and this type of hub can also be created in Dubai," she says. "Hayley's Comet is going to be different because the children will come in as creatives."

Creative control

Courses include playwriting, drama, cinema studies, TV acting, choreography and individual or group performance.

Doyle says it is important for youngsters to be exposed to theatre at an early age because it "transports you".

"My first theatre trip, I was two years old and I went to see Paddington Bear in Liverpool, where there is a big music and art scene. There is something about that world where everything else stops and you feel emotions you otherwise would not," she says.

Not everyone will thrive in a 9 to 5 desk job, she adds, because people boast different talents. Parents can encourage their children through art, Doyle says.

"People can create something artistic that can change lives. Movies, for example, can trigger conversations in any subject. We need art, television, film and theatre. It is also how we unwind and we always need creative people so we don't get stuck in a rut."

Among her proudest achievements are taking a principal role in Mamma Mia and performing alongside the British actor and singer Michael Ball.

"What I love about theatre is the energy and positivity. Every night, you have to give the audience the time of their life and you learn and appreciate the behind the scenes," she says.

* Classes run in 12-week terms. For more information email info@hayleyscomet.com or call 055 104 0538

melshoush@thenational.ae