x Abu Dhabi, UAESaturday 20 January 2018

Touring theatre companies bring experimental and classic drama to UAE

On stage at Ductac, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai are the UK-based theatre groups, 1927 Theatre Company and Shakespeare 4 Kidz.

A poster for The Animals and Children Took to the Streets.
A poster for The Animals and Children Took to the Streets.

Agnes Eaves and her daughter have just moved to the Bayou, a strange and eerie part of a city that has largely been ignored, along with its curious inhabitants.

On Thursday, the UK-based 1927 Theatre Company will bring this neighbourhood alive during a performance of The Animals and Children Took to the Streets at Ductac, Mall of Emirates. The mixture of animation, music and live performance is not an average night out at the theatre, which is what makes it unique – and entertaining, according to Lillian Henley, 1927’s co-founder.

It is the first UAE stop for the in-demand multimedia production, which has been drawing positive reviews since its debut in the UK in 2010 and will next head to Sri Lanka, New Zealand, China and the US with performances through to July.

Henley, who also composed the music for the show and plays several different characters, said Agnes’s journey would reveal some “horrors” along the way. “This is a place where you would not normally go unless you actually lived there, not even as a tourist, and the tenants find it difficult to leave,” she said. “The first characters you meet are quite arty and knowing of their state, some are gossipy and nasty characters. Agnes then meets a character called ‘the Caretaker’ and they develop a friendship while she tries to inspire the children.”

Three actors play different roles, with a team of six supporting the travelling show. During last year’s rioting in London and other parts of the UK, many people drew comparisons between the political situation and themes touched on in The Animals and Children Took to the Streets. A December review in The Guardian proclaimed: “It’s not just a clever show; it also has its ear close to the ground”.

Henley said production deliberately reflected on the situation in the company’s home base.

“The company is based in Hackney, London, and we explored various characters like the Caretaker, because like in Hackney there is often a huge contrast between poverty and wealth,” she said. “We are not trying to be political but we deal with everyday life in a fun way, with a focus on children in less fortunate areas.”

After the tour concludes, the company will focus on developing its next production. The Magic Flute is expected to be staged next year.

Another UK theatre company, Shakespeare 4 Kidz, is performing one of the world’s most famous love stories, also at Ductac. Moving on from Qatar, its production of Romeo and Juliet began yesterday and runs until Thursday.

“Shakespeare is one of the greatest storytellers of all time and our aim is to introduce such classical stories to a younger audience so it’s a family show, using a musical genre with dance,” said Julian Chenery, the founder of Shakespeare 4 Kidz and director of Romeo and Juliet.

It is a return effort for the company, which staged Romeo and Juliet in 2009 in Dubai, Sharjah, Bahrain and Syria.

“The story really resonated with the audience in the region, it was absolutely stupendous,” said ­Chenery.


Romeo and Juliet runs until Thursday with performances at 8.45am and 11.45am. Tickets are Dh150

The Animals and Children Took to the Streets is on this Thursday at 7.30pm and on Friday and on Saturday at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. Tickets Dh80 for ages 10 and above. For details visit www.ductac.org


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