x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 21 July 2017

Vampires and laughter make for an interesting weekend

A satisfying weekend, thanks to the latest Twilight flick and a staging of The Odd Couple.

Taylor Lautner stepped out and strode off, briskly ripping his shirt off, and the movie hall dissolved into a collective sigh. Cara next to me shrieked and sank back into her seat in a heart-broken swoon, Tina's eyes widened to the size of saucers, and the people behind erupted in cheers. The Twilight folk couldn't have dreamt up a better start for the penultimate movie of the vampire romance saga: nothing holds the attention of an audience made up mostly of lovesick teenage girls more than Lautner, except perhaps Lautner without a shirt on.

I was being treated to Breaking Dawn: Part 1, at a birthday party. The story of a girl falling in love with a vampire's been overhyped and over-repeated now, but it gave Vani, whose birthday it was, an excuse to stare, drooling, at Edward Cullen for two hours. She couldn't envision a more perfect birthday.

What she doesn't like, though, is Bella, who is of course the only obstacle between what promises to be a beautiful romance between Edward and Vani. We therefore watched with vindictive pleasure as Bella was forced to down a glass full of blood to keep her unborn baby topped up, went through an agonising pregnancy with Edward's kid and had a caesarean section without morphine, which they didn't have time to administer. By that point, Vani had almost forgiven her.

We gasped with the rest of the audience when certain revelations about the main character came to light. Cara all but dissolved into tears because that tarnished her mental image of that flawless hunk who could do no wrong. We oohed at the wolves. We cooed at the adorable but absurdly named Renesme, named after her two grandmothers, Esme, Edward's mum, and Renee, Bella's. We remained stunned at the ending, mouths hanging open.

In fact, it wouldn't matter if you missed the whole movie - it's decidedly missable - if you just watched the ending. Well, OK, it's what you'd expect, but when you've got your nails digging into your seat and you've even stopped shovelling popcorn into your mouth to get into the mood of the chilling anticipation as the background music crescendos frantically, it's definitely a memorable last scene.

While the Twilight franchise has become a global phenomenon due to its loyal fan base of hormonal girls, it's often a much more refreshing experience to watch something being performed live. This weekend also had another pleasant evening in store, in the form of a play by the local drama group Backstage in the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (DUCTAC). Neil Simon's The Odd Couple, directed by Ankita Rao, is a hilarious tale of two divorced men who decide to live together: one's a slob and the other a compulsive neat-freak. Laugh-out-loud consequences invariably ensue, and Backstage did a pretty good job, considering that all its crew have day jobs or attend school, and only act as a hobby.

I got chatting with Alec Letzer, who gave a magnificent performance as Oscar the slob (but is the head of the IT department in a bank by day), and he smilingly admitted that it was easy to relate to the character because Oscar's so close to his real nature. "I only began learning the lines for the third scene a week ago!" he shrugged. It was easy for teenagers in the audience to relate to Oscar, too: my heart goes out to anyone who thinks clearing up the dinner table doesn't matter in the grand scheme of things and a messy room is best left untouched. Bryan Mackenzie's wonderful organisation-obsessed Felix Ungar, however, was decidedly on the same page as mum, firmly under the impression that not using a coaster to set your glass on is blasphemy. He'd even got the habit of leaving notes with instructions around the house for his sloppy friend, ending them with a snappy "f u". "It took me two hours to realise that 'f u' stood for Felix Ungar!" moaned the delightful Oscar.

All in all, it was a very satisfactory weekend: I got my share of blood-chilling drama and emotional teen angst, and when things got too weepy, Backstage saved the day by serving up a few laughs. I don't think I'll be joining some of the other invitees to the Twilight party in purchasing any "Bite me Edward" stickers, though.

The writer is a 16-year-old student in Dubai