x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 23 January 2018

Jules Verne's 'lost novel' adapted for stage

An experimental theatre company takes on a forgotten 1863 book some say predicts the future.

The Star Too Group are staging Are You There?. Courtesy Star Too Group
The Star Too Group are staging Are You There?. Courtesy Star Too Group

The experimental theatre company Star Too Group returns to the stage in Dubai this weekend with its new production, Are You There?.

The performance is loosely based on Paris in the Twentieth Century, Jules Verne’s so-called “lost” novel. Written in 1863, the work contains the science fiction writer’s visions of a dystopian future in which the creative arts have been forgotten and only business and technology are valued.

His publisher found the book too dismal and pessimistic, hence Verne locked the work away in a safe, only for it to be rediscovered in 1989. It has since been heralded for its remarkable prescience in envisaging what the future might hold, with Verne predicting the rise in such technologies as the internet and nuclear power.

In the Star Too Group’s version, various performers will present speeches – some taken from the book and some that are original – imagining life in the alternative reality Verne created. The production includes multimedia backdrops and a live video link-up with a performer in Paris. The audience gets to participate, too – even when it comes to choosing how the play ends.

Clearly this is not a traditional production.

“I describe it as an animated lecture,” explains the director Sol Abiad. “It does not have a linear storyline – instead it’s a series of themes that are inspired by the book.”

Abiad believes Verne’s predictions about the future of cultural expression are proving accurate, particularly in the case of austerity-led European governments slashing budgets for the arts.

“I hope the piece will get people to ask questions about society, and where we are today,” she says. “I hope it makes people consider and question things, as well as entertaining them.”

Are You There? is at The Fridge, Alserkal Avenue, Al Quoz, Dubai at 8.30pm on Friday and at 5.30pm and 8.30pm on Saturday. Entry is Dh75. Email info@-starttoodubai.com to reserve seats


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