Theatre is clearly his first love and he isn't putting on an act

Theatre is clearly his first love and he isnt putting on an act
Padraig Downey, Director and Producer during an interview at the DUCTAC, Mall of the Emirates in Dubai on Wednesday, May 24, 2017.

All the world's a stage for this Irishman. You've probably watched a few of his 12 productions. If not, you ought to. Here's a guy whose heart is in creating and nurturing the local theatre scene in the UAE



by

Kelly Clarke

Published: Fri 16 Jun 2017, 8:22 PM

Last updated: Sun 18 Jun 2017, 1:55 AM

I can safely say I'm the furthest you can get from being a 'jazz hands' kind of character - and my friends would definitely agree. But on the contrary, I love nothing more than a bit of 'jazz hands' action up on stage.
I'm a sucker for a good old-fashioned theatre experience. And whether it's small or big scale, I'm usually there - front and centre - gawping up in awe at the stage.
During any visit back to the UK, I make it a ritual for my mother and I to head into London for a dose of the West End's all singing, all dancing productions. Our day out usually starts with a quick mooch about the city before settling into those luxurious, red velvet chairs that are synonymous with the London theatre scene.
So, you can imagine my hysteria back in September when Dubai unveiled its very own West End, in the form of Dubai Opera. So far, I've plonked myself in one of their 1,900-strong seats about six times in as many months. And, so far so good; for the most part, at least.
SPOILER ALERT: I may be opening myself up for some cattiness here (excuse the pun), but sadly I did make a deflated exit from my seat following the end of one show - Cats. I just didn't get the point of the whole plot. A bunch of random furballs roaming the streets of London. ".and what?" was my reaction come the end of that show. But then again, who am I to judge? It's been a hit for many a decade now, so to each their own I guess. Maybe I'd just be more appreciating of a dog-themed spin-off. Do your best, Andrew (Lloyd Webber).
I have realised one thing since the onset of this theatre extravaganza, though. I've become neglectful of my love for small-scale productions. And quite frankly, I miss it. The intimacy has gone awol and I want it back.
Don't get me wrong, my jaw has hit the ground on many occasions as a result of Dubai Opera's stage productions. Hats off to that behind-the-scenes crew; it's some of the best I've ever seen. But every now and then, it's nice to strip it back a bit. That's what you get with small-scale productions. Local venues, supporting local talent; it's like that fuzzy comfort blanket you snuggle into after a wild night out - that wild night being the glitz and glam of Dubai Opera.
And no one would agree with me more here than Padraig Downey. Now this is a man who eats, breathes and sleeps local theatre. Ireland-born Padraig founded one of Dubai's most successful theatre groups 'Danú' in 2013, and believe me when I say he eats, he sleeps, and he breathes this stuff.
So far, he has 12 full-length productions under his belt in Dubai, with Ductac and Madinat theatres being his regular haunts. After an hour-long sit down with this guy, I feel consumed with guilt for being a complete slacker in life.
He's what my friends would call a "trooper," in that Padraig is someone who doesn't do the whole sitting on the sidelines thing.
"When you have a vision, too many chefs can spoil the broth so I tend to do it myself. I don't like fuss or egos," he tells me.
And that's why if you ever see Padraig's name in lights - it's often followed by the words 'Director/Producer' and on the odd occasion, 'Actor'. He's an all rounder.
Growing up in Ireland, Padraig tells me his folks were pretty religious; so with that came regular church visits.
"It was a sacred space, but it was also my stage. It was somewhere you could perform."
However, growing up in the middle of nowhere, with the arts a fairly unknown concept, he says his mother and father would often question the path he was going down. I mean, theatre, really! That was the typical reaction. But now, his success has brought with it a sense of pride among them.
If like me, you're a regular on Dubai's local theatre circuit, then 'Padraig' is a name you'll recognise. But he's a familiar face too, depending on how he's feeling.
"With age, I've transitioned a fair bit out of acting. In my teens and twenties I loved it, but it's a bit of a solitary confinement as it's just your role you're playing." And that's why the preference now is directing and producing.
"I love watching the audience react. It feels great, but every now and then I do miss the stage."
But of course, with small-scale productions, come small-scale wage packets. And this here is a guy that's never made a profit. But he makes it a point of saying he's never made a loss either. So, every cloud and all that.
For Padraig, theatre is something you have to "live and love," and although he may be single, he's most definitely married to the job. But he has a dream.
"For the homegrown talent here, I do have one wish. We need something more. Like a training centre to promote our passion."
And when I address the elephant in the room - the elephant being Dubai Opera - I'm surprised by Padraig's response.
"Dubai Opera is wonderful. It's bringing in terrific productions and it will help promote the arts."
Granted, I was slightly miffed that I didn't get the over-the-top, "dahhling please," hiss I was expecting, but Padraig doesn't do egos. He's a true professional, and a true gentleman too.
kelly@khaleejtimes.com
Kelly covers education and other important stuff. She finds it endearing that people call her Kel


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