For the students of theatre

For the students of theatre

By Purva Grover

Published: Fri 20 Sep 2019, 12:00 AM

Last updated: Fri 20 Sep 2019, 2:00 AM

"A Wednesday night and a full house. Are we at the right place?" Sherry, my companion for the evening and a theatre actor herself, chuckled as we walked into The Junction, Al Quoz. "It must be a ladies' night," we joked, extremely pleased to see a large audience in attendance for the UAE premiere of An Inspector Calls. Full houses on weekends in local theatres are a blessing and on weekdays, a rarity.
Now, for any theatre-goer and performer, it's natural to draw comparisons between locally-produced theatrical shows and the ones we get to see when on the move - often names are dropped from Prithvi Theatre in Mumbai, India to Broadway in New York, US. So, when you hear that the National Theatre's productions are visiting the town, you get excited to watch, learn and applaud.
An Inspector Calls, a play written by English dramatist J.B. Priestley is a classic from the mid-20th century English theatre, and its success was further boosted with English director Stephen Daldry's production of it for the National Theatre in 1992. [Fun fact: National Theatre is one of the UK's well-known publicly-funded performing arts venues, and is amongst the likes of the Royal Shakespeare Company and Royal Opera House.] Albeit this production was a different version than the one staged at the National Theatre, nevertheless, it was a treat to watch this masterpiece directed by Patrick Sandford and produced by Lori Dorman.
The stage setting was basic (no frills) and appropriate (props corresponding to the era) for the drawing-room drama. Audience consensus was that the acting was phenomenal - from the haughtiness of Sybil Birling (played by Brenda Longman) to the nervousness of Gerald Croft (George Brockbanks), to the innocence of Shiela Birling (Kate Cooper) to the gullibility of Eric Birling (Mack Newton), and the composure of Arthur Birling (David Delve) - especially, when each of them was accused of involvement in a crime by the brilliant Inspector Goole (Stephen Chance). Edna the Maid (Emma Quintin) with her ghostly presence was a delight to watch too. The show was brought to the UAE by Lollipop Productions and was also staged (September 10-13) as part of a school tour in the city. Rightly so, as it is a curriculum-related show and many students of drama have already studied it or will be studying it shortly. I, for one, was happy to be the student.

The next stop for National Theatre's fans and students should be The Courtyard Playhouse, Al Quoz; the proud partner of the National Theatre Live programme, they broadcast a minimum of 10 productions/year exclusively for their NT Live Programme Members. Another fun fact: National Theatre Live, a groundbreaking National Theatre project, broadcasts the best of British theatre live from the London stage to cinemas across around the world. What's interesting here is that each broadcast is filmed in front of a live audience, with the cameras carefully positioned to ensure that cinema audiences get the 'best seat in the house' view.
Leaving you with a list of shows to block your calendar (see above). See you in the audience. It's not every day that you can see international productions in your neighbourhood.
Sept 26/27; 8 pm: NT Live Screening 'The Lehman Trilogy', The Courtyard Playhouse, Al Quoz
Oct 17/18; 8 pm: NT Live Screening 'One Man. Two Guvnors', The Courtyard Playhouse, Al Quoz

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