x Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 23 July 2017

This theatre season, there's no place like home

Starting next month, the First Group Theatre at Souk Madinat Jumeirah will roll out a new season of entertainment with a greater focus on home-grown talent.

Bernadette Scott, theatre and sponsorship manager of the First Group Theatre. Pawan Singh / The National
Bernadette Scott, theatre and sponsorship manager of the First Group Theatre. Pawan Singh / The National

Starting next month, the First Group Theatre at Souk Madinat Jumeirah will roll out a new season of entertainment with a greater focus on home-grown talent. Maey El Shoush sat down with Bernadette Scott to get the details.

What to expect

The new season kicks off with the South African director Duck Chowles returning to Dubai for The Fab Four: Music of the Beatles, from September 6 to 8.

"It's the Beatles' 50th anniversary this year and it's a show for everyone," he says. "Something nice to start the new season with. My background in theatre is very much about entertaining people - whether through ballet or comedy. I also find that music does a lot for anyone. People can communicate through music."

Chowles directed the musical Under African Skies for the theatre in June. The sold-out production was one of the theatre's most successful shows to date. Plans are already underway to bring it back next year.

Following The Fab Four production is Pinocchio's debut on stage in the emirate, from September 19 to 22.

"It's by the same production company that brought Peter Pan in our Christmas pantomime, so Pinocchio will be of the same standard," says Bernadette Scott, the theatre and sponsorship manager.

This year's Christmas special is Wizard of Oz, also being presented for the first time. There will be more than 20 performances from December 20 to 31.

"The end of the year is more about family and adventurous performances," says Scott. "For Peter Pan, for example, we also had adults come on their own and Wizard of Oz is for everybody, not just those with children."

Spotlight on local talent

Another confirmed performance is Kalubela, described as a "full-of-surprises", cabaret-style show that blends aerial stunts with elements of the circus. It will run from October 3 to 6. Created and produced by the Dubai-based music management company The Fridge, exclusively for the First Group Theatre, the show will feature an all-UAE cast - fulfilling one of the goals of the organisation of having greater involvement with local performers.

"Last year, I asked The Fridge to create for us Cirque De Souk which was inspired by Cirque du Soleil," says Scott. "It's very important because there's a lot of UAE talent that do not have exposure," she said. "Cirque de Souk was up for a Time Out Award and other Middle Eastern awards, as it was something different and artistic."

From now on, the theatre aims to produce a minimum of one local or international production every month. During times such as Christmas and after Eid, when demand for family-friendly shows rises, the number of shows per month could jump to three.

Next year's line-up

Starting next year, the theatre plans to boost the number of ballets it offers from one per month to at least two. Although the line-up has not yet been confirmed, possible productions include Sleeping Beauty in April and The Nutcracker in November.

Possible musicals include The Blues Brothers. For comedy, Scott says to expect some "big-name celebrities" following the huge response to John Cleese. His five-show run in May sold out well in advance. The South African production of A Handful of Keys is also returning next year.

"It doesn't matter where the production comes from, what's important is the soul of the show. If it's something with passion and good quality that leaves a lasting impression - that's what we want to share with the audience," says Scott. "I get so excited with theatre. When you have an excellent show that's slick and the sound and lighting all come together, I love it."

melshoush@thenational.ae