Friday, 5 October 2012

Dubai Drama Group Opening Night of "The Complete Works Of William Shakespere ( Abridged)"

Could I say that the Theatre Season has kicked off?
Last week we had the Backstage "crew" and this week the Dubai Drama Group.

The sublime (see here for a review of last weeks "A Few Good Men") to the delightfully ridiculous "Complete Works of Billy Wobbledagger" (there is a thirteen year old in all of us) that  condenses thirty seven plays into two and a bit hours. Reader's Digest eat your heart out! As an aside, and totally off the point, when did using wikipedia become so totally unfashionable? Just asking.......
Our evening started with a visit to the optician. Actually it did not start with that but if I told you about the other thing then I would never get to the theatre thing.
Those of you who are friends with Bryan on Facebook will know that he has  suffered  the indignity of getting reading glasses. Having worn glasses since I was a teen I am not really terribly sympathetic. Off we trot. Me to get new spectacles that will enable me to navigate my life, and a pair of "very sexy on anyone but me" sunglasses to replace the ones I left in Cape Town in May and Bryan to collect his aforementioned reading glasses. Armed with our new toys (how sad) we found our way to DUCTAC for the opening night of the show. We had the very good fortune of nabbing two of the last four tickets on sale. Word to the wise. GET YOUR TICKETS NOW! 
Bryan was in heaven. he could  actually read the programme.
Anyway, back to my favourite way to start the weekend. A night at the Theatre.

Director, Brent Jenkins, made a very savvy choice in his play. Judging by the show of hands in the audience it is safe to say that most people from most walks of life and corners of the Globe are familiar with Shakespeare. A director with a mind to getting bums in seats should do well with a title that alludes to The Bard. Once that director has you firmly in his clutches he can have the most fun throwing all your preconceived notions of the seriousness of Shakespeare out the window. And Brent did. A great script teamed with lively direction and good acting entertained the enthusiastic audience for the entire show.

I particularly enjoyed the reaction of the teenage man boys sitting in front of us. They were almost as delightful to watch as the actors. The innocence of their shocked, slightly nervous laughter turning into rolling about belly laughing at Juliet's comically tragic suicide (on discovering the death of her beloved Romeo) was a treat all on its own.
The play can be described as an interactive, scripted piece that allows for a degree of improvisation. Latecomers were not spared the humorous digs of the cast and in turn the audiences laughter. If you don't want to be the butt of a joke don't be late!
The cast (for thirty seven plays remember) consists of three men and a few unsuspecting audience members. Often, in this particular play, the actors play themselves. In this production Toby Masson, Gordon Torbet and Cliff Single took the parts of the players performing the assorted roles. And they did a very good job of it too. The script is fast paced, and that, combined with the opportunity for a bit of improvisation, means that the actors have to have their wits about them for every second of the show. They cannot lose the plot. When you are acting as hacks you absolutely cannot afford to be hackish or the whole things falls flat. Our actors held that script together with charming skilful humour. Often crass charm. There is lots of toilet humour and eye rolling and sighing and dramatic luvvy sulking.
I would have had a bit more nuance between when the actors  are playing the players and playing the Shakespearean characters. Just a subtle thing for me. Maybe the use  of the American accents was used to highlight the differences between the actors and the Shakespearean characters? It did not work for me. The accents were okay-ish but not needed. Except the Scottish accents for the Scottish play. That was essential. As were the accents in the Rap number. Now you know you have to see the show..... Rap in Shakespeare?

Cliff Single plays Jess the touted (non-expert) expert on Shakespeare who tries valiantly to add a bit of culture to the proceedings and I can happily report that he completely fails to add even an ounce of culture to the show. The path of the purist is a lonely one. A great performance.
Toby Masson's untiring, energetic performances had me wondering if he collapsed in a tiny heap after the show from sheer physical exhaustion. He was here. He was there. He was like that Damned Scarlet Pimpernel and was bloody everywhere! Go Toby!
Gordon Torbet, I think, played most of the female roles, or was it just that he did it so badly (in the best way I promise) that I remember him for that? Either way he does not look good in a blond wig and no one would ever mistake him for a gal, not even on a moonless night in a shadowy dark alley. I am just saying. What he did do exceptionally well was slip into a short soliloquy which was the only serious moment in the entire production. He took the audience from laugh out loud to serious in a skilfully crafted shift in gears. Thank you for that moment.
We loved the show. The audience loved the show. We laughed. We laughed some more. If you want to share in the laughter go to the Theatre THIS WEEKEND. Don't delay. The run is short, ending on the 6th October.

Promotional pieces for the show are found in  7 days (my go-to newspaper for the REAL news) , the the Nationaland in explorer.

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