x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 26 July 2017

Students take on an epic challenge with Moby-Dick adaptation

MD will play out crucial scenes from the story and explore modern-day relationships through dance performances, wrestling matches and a video projection cued in to songs by the New York composer Heather Christian

Juliana Bello portrays Captain Ahab in the play. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National
Juliana Bello portrays Captain Ahab in the play. Fatima Al Marzooqi / The National

Herman Melville’s 1851 epic Moby-Dick will be brought to life in a contemporary stage production by New York University Abu Dhabi this weekend.

Titled MD, the multimedia show has been put together by students of the NYUAD Theatre Programme and Theatre Mitu, in collaboration with the New York-based Witness Relocation Theatre Company.

An original production that draws from popular film adaptations of the book, MD will play out crucial scenes and explore modern-day relationships through dance performances and a video projection cued in to songs by the New York composer Heather Christian.

“The epic size of Moby-Dick required that we use a collage of different forms of theatre to portray it,” explains Dan Safer, Witness Relocation’s artistic director, who also conceived of the play. Safer worked with 13 performers and more than 20 crew members for a month on the production. “This is the first time I am directing a play based on Moby-Dick and it was a big challenge,” he added.

“We had a lot of material to work with and tried out different things, making a lot of changes. We had no idea how to do it and that was the most exciting part.”

Safer says he wanted to capture the most compelling emotions and driving forces of the crew on the ship, who embark on a vengeful journey to hunt down a whale.

“I was most interested in Captain Ahab and his obsession with chasing something important. That is a big theme of the novel,” he says.

Its epic proportions, Safer adds, make it close to impossible to recreate on stage. “We also wanted to look at the other people on the ship and how their lives seem meaningless on the journey.

“It is like when you watch a war movie and the protagonist on the front line grabs our attention. But what about the person sitting at home, making dinner? We try to delve into that. The cast has used the theme to see how it resonated with them.”

• MD will play at Manarat Al Saadiyat, Abu Dhabi, at 8pm tonight and tomorrow, and at 2pm and 8pm on Saturday. Entrance is free. To book, visit thewhalenyuad.brownpapertickets.com

aahmed@thenational.ae