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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 14 November 2018

Abu Dhabi theatre group Beyond the Veil explores duty, loyalty with a bit of ‘primal’ acting in Take the Ground

Emirati playright Saleh Karama's new play Take the Ground about loyalty and duty in relationships will be staged in English by Abu Dhabi's Beyond the Veil from April 21 to 23
Saleh Karama Al Ameri’s play, Take the Ground, is being performed in English for the first time starting today. Courtesy Beyond the Veil
Saleh Karama Al Ameri’s play, Take the Ground, is being performed in English for the first time starting today. Courtesy Beyond the Veil

An absurdist play – complete with actors engaging in freestyle movements called chimping – will take to the stage at Abu Dhabi National Theatre from today.

Take the Ground, written by award-winning Emirati playwright Saleh Karama Al Ameri, is being performed for the first time in English in the production by Abu Dhabi theatre group Beyond the Veil.

Al Ameri is known for addressing social issues and exploring bold themes in his writing, and this play is no exception, dealing with love, loyalty and social factors in the workplace.

The play tells the story of a businesswoman who is scammed by one of her employees, leaving her vulnerable, emotionally disturbed and forced to work as a street vendor. A chance encounter with the fraudster at a bus station brings back painful memories and leads her to behave irrationally towards the other passengers.

The 90-minute play was written for an all-male cast, but Zakaia Cvitanovich, the founder of the theatre group and assistant director of the play, says they wanted to interpret it differently without straying too far from the original story.

“The director, Angeleene Abraham, thought it would be better to have a balance, with three female and two male characters in the English-language version,” says Cvitanovich, who appears in the play as one of the passengers. “The lead character, Fetoun, is split – she is played by two women, to show that she is a multifaceted individual, who is as tough as she is sweet.”

The first half focuses on the businesswoman’s past, while the second shows her interaction with the passengers at the bus station. Cvitanovich says the play is social commentary that explores the twin subjects of loyalty and duty.

“I consider it relevant in the world we are living in,” she says. “But you can also set it in Elizabethan times, because there will always be someone who will take advantage of you in the workplace.”

The story unfolds using minimalistic sets, focusing on the chemistry between the characters, with the actors in some scenes resorting to freestyle movements – they may suddenly pretend to be animals, for example. “We call this ‘chimping’,” says Cvitanovich. “It is an absurdist play, so there are times when our director tells us to act primal, our emotions take over and we become almost animal-­like. We termed the movement that comes from this ‘chimping’. It takes the story forward.”

Take the Ground is at The National Theatre, Abu Dhabi, from today until Saturday, at 8pm. Tickets cost Dh50 for adults and Dh25 for students; email beyondtheveilad@gmail.com

aahmed@thenational.ae