x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

'Whole theatre' has a dream to play

A Dream Play, being performed at NYUAD from tonight until Saturday, is a surreal exploration of love, struggle and the greater human condition.

A Dream Play points to the fact that many people become tethered to their function and move away from humanity, leading to unhappiness. Courtesy Theatre Mitu
A Dream Play points to the fact that many people become tethered to their function and move away from humanity, leading to unhappiness. Courtesy Theatre Mitu

New York University Abu Dhabi (NYUAD) and Theater Mitu are inviting the UAE community to enter a dream world that recognises no boundaries of time or space.

Ruben Polendo, the director of theatre for NYUAD, will be directing August Strindberg's A Dream Play, a surreal exploration of love, struggle and other aspects of the human condition. The show, a collaboration between the university and his US and UAE-based company Theater Mitu, is premiering tonight.

A Dream Play was written by the Swedish playwright in 1901 and is a mythological story posing many questions, not least what the difference is between ourselves and the "function" we serve in society.

"It is not an indictment but an invitation to consider what gives us happiness and fulfilment in life and acts as a check-point to where your life is," says Polendo. "It is an epic conversation because the audience will all be feeling similarly."

The production team includes eight professional actors and 15 crew members from Theater Mitu as well as 20 NYUAD student apprentices.

Polendo stayed true to the original script while also looking at various adaptations and translations from around the world. The result is a "whole theatre" experience blending styles such as noh (the classical Japanese musical theatre style) and kabuki (Japanese dance drama) and Indian kathakali dance.

"The piece incorporates visual ideas with contemporary art and an original electronic music score," he says. "The costume and set choices also give a dynamic, abstracted view of humanity. This 'whole' experience allows the audience to feel with their eyes, ears, spirit and intellect.

"As a writer, thinker and an artist, Strindberg was well ahead of his time."

Written when Strindberg was going through a personal transitional of his own, the piece points to the fact that many people can often become tethered to their function and tend to move away from humanity - until they realise their unhappiness, says Polendo.

"It's so relevant because it proposes the idea of balance and how people become systematic without noticing. The characters fight so hard for this dream of who they are and, in the UAE, for example, many are trying to find their function," he says.

As a director, it proved impossible for him not to feel moved. "I love it because it allows you to take a deep breath, which is necessary in a city with so many new beginnings and transitions," he says.

A Dream Playruns from tonight through Saturday at NYUAD at 8pm. There is a matinee performance on Friday at 2pm. Entrance is free. Visit www.nyuad.nyu.edu