Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Breaking the Silence - Oppression, Fear, and Courage in Zimbabwe by Alexandra Fuller for The National Geographic

A far flung friend (as a Zimbabwean  and an expat that is the way of friends) sent me an interesting article related to Zimbabwe recently. I will share.

Picture by Robin Hammond in the National Geographic
Zimbos out there will be familiar with Alexandra Fuller  as the author of "Don't Lets Go To the Dogs Tonight", "Scribbling the Cat " and "Cocktail Hour under the Tree of Forgetfulness". She has recently written a beautifully observant and well crafted article for "The National Geographic" linked here and shown below. The pictures that come with the article were taken by Robin Hammond. They are breathtaking in their loveliness and sadness.

Read and weep.
Breaking the Silence - Oppression, Fear, and Courage in Zimbabwe

 There are at least two things to know about Zimbabweans. The first is that they have an immoderate attachment to their land, and no wonder. Anyone who has seen the spring-red blush of musasa woodland at the beginning of the rains, or felt the crackle-hot wind of a lowveld summer afternoon, or absorbed the scents of sweet potato and marigold as dusk settles over the bush will know that theirs is a soul-snagging land. Of course such an attachment to land comes at a price. For it, and over it, there will be wars and revolutions, and the inevitable loss of land by the vanquished or the politically unlucky will be so unendurable that the unmoored people will end up true ghosts, souls in search of soil.

The second thing to know about Zimbabweans is that they are a small but persistently noisy nation of storytellers and musicmakers. The Bhundu Boys were pop diva Madonna's supporting act at Wembley Stadium in London in 1987. Thomas Mapfumo, the Lion of Zimbabwe, created a genre of protest music-chimurenga (uprising). Africa's most prestigious literary award, the Caine Prize, has twice gone to Zimbabweans in its 13-year history (Brian Chikwava in 2004, NoViolet Bulawayo in 2011). Charles Mungoshi won two Pen International awards in 1976, and Dambudzo Marechera won the Guardian Fiction Prize in 1979. Doris Lessing, who spent her formative years in the country, won the Nobel Prize in literature.

I am not now Zimbabwean, but for several years in the 1970s my British-born parents owned a farm on the eastern edge of what was then the rogue state of Rhodesia. They fought-my father as a conscripted soldier, my mother as a police volunteer-to keep the country white-run and avowedly out of the hands of communists. By any calculation, it was a questionable cause: Ian Smith, Rhodesia's prime minister, campaigned in 1965 on a slogan of "A whiter, brighter Rhodesia," and for the next decade and a half a decreasing minority of whites (just over 200,000 in the early '60s to about 150,000 in 1980) tried to hold on to power in a country populated by a black majority that grew from about 3.5 million to more than 7 million during that period.

By late 1979 liberation forces were coming into Rhodesia from camps in neighboring Mozambique and Zambia faster than government troops could kill them. A peace was negotiated. The following February general elections were held and won by the Zimbabwe African National Union-Patriotic Front (ZANU-PF). Its leader became Zimbabwe's first prime minister. Robert Gabriel Mugabe exuded an air of conciliatory magnanimity. My mother wasn't buying it. My parents moved north to Malawi.

Working along fault lines well established by the white minority government before him-which is to say, ethnic, racial, and political-Mugabe went about further dividing his nation and securing absolute power for himself.

There are two main ethnic groups in Zimbabwe: the majority Shona and the minority Ndebele. Mugabe is Shona. In 1983 Mugabe deployed his North Korean-trained Five Brigade into the west of the country to preempt any Ndebele political opposition. Over the following five years, an estimated 20,000 Ndebele were massacred. "He understood and manipulated our weaknesses very well," Wilfred Mhanda, a former ZANU-PF liberation commander who fought along with Mugabe, told me. "There is nothing more deadly than someone so profoundly insecure mimicking the aggression of his oppressors and becoming an oppressor in turn."

Mugabe tolerated corruption in his cabinet, as long as it came with loyalty to him. The country's economy was collapsing, and by the mid-1990s there were fuel shortages, civil servants were striking, and liberation war veterans began to demand the compensation they had been promised at independence. Then, in 1998, Mugabe sent troops into the Democratic Republic of the Congo to prop up the teetering regime of Laurent Kabila, at an eventual cost equivalent to a million U.S. dollars a day. Zimbabwe's economic fate was sealed.

The Movement for Democratic Change (MDC) was launched in 1999, headed by a former labor union leader, Morgan Tsvangirai. Mugabe countered the new political outspokenness this came with and the increasing dissatisfaction among his own supporters by allowing them to appropriate white-owned commercial farms without compensation. In 2000, with Mugabe's explicit blessing, unemployed ZANU-PF supporters led by war veterans armed with axes and machetes invaded the farms, shouting, "Hondo! War!" Domestic food supplies plummeted. In 2005, after the MDC won several parliamentary seats, Mugabe retaliated with Operation Murambatsvina (Operation Clear the Filth). Across the country market stalls and homes belonging to the urban poor, who constituted much of ZANU-PF's opposition, were razed. An estimated 700,000 people lost their homes or livelihoods, and more than 2 million were driven further into poverty.

Then, in a first round of elections held in 2008, Mugabe's ZANU-PF finally lost to Tsvangirai's MDC. Calling for a runoff election, supporters and officials of ZANU-PF went on a vicious state-sponsored rampage. Hundreds of MDC supporters were killed and thousands injured, hundreds of women and girls were raped, and tens of thousands of people became internal refugees. "If you wanted to commit suicide in 2008, you just wore an MDC T-shirt," I was told. By November of that year, Steve Hanke, an economics professor at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore, had calculated Zimbabwe's monthly inflation rate at 79.6 billion percent, second only to Hungary's in 1946.

To avoid worse bloodletting and even more unimaginable economic collapse, Tsvangirai withdrew from the race, and Mugabe declared himself the winner. Thabo Mbeki, then president of South Africa and a bafflingly uncritical Mugabe supporter, persuaded the two men to negotiate a power-sharing agreement. Mugabe retained control of the mines, the army, and the police and intelligence services-in other words, everything that ensured his continued dominance. Tsvangirai inherited the ministries of finance, education, health, environment-in other words, everything that ensured he couldn't run away with power.

A tenuous purgatory of waiting ensued-waiting for Mugabe's grip on power to ease, waiting for Mugabe to die (he was born in 1924). But in spite of rumored puffy ankles-cancer was one of the whispered speculations-Mugabe appeared as robust as ever. In 2010 Foreign Policy magazine named Mugabe the second worst dictator in the world, after North Korea's late leader Kim Jong Il. In 2012 the Washington, D.C.-based nonprofit organization the Fund for Peace ranked Zimbabwe fifth in its annual Failed States Index.

Still, when I arrived in the country in mid-October 2012, things in the capital, Harare, seemed to be business as usual. An influx of diamond money-the 2006 discovery of diamonds in the east of the country has been called the biggest find of its kind-had lent a Botoxed sheen to the place: adoption of the U.S. dollar had simplified trade, new cars were on the roads, shops were full of South African imports, mansions mushroomed behind massive walls in the suburbs beyond State House.

But beneath the impression of regularity, disquiet remained. Ahead of tentatively scheduled elections in July 2013, ZANU-PF youth gangs were stirring in densely populated market centers; on international television ZANU-PF officials were blatantly threatening that they would not support a Tsvangirai win. At the same time headlines reported Tsvangirai's domestic intrigues, culminating in his recent marriage to Elizabeth Macheka, daughter of a ZANU-PF central committee guru. His position as a robust alternative to Mugabe seemed in question.

Meanwhile personnel from the Central Intelligence Organisation (CIO) were reportedly monitoring citizens' activities everywhere. "Yes, there are people who say I should watch out," Tafadzwa Muzondo, a 33-year-old Zimbabwean playwright told me. "But I have to do my duty. I am a citizen first. I am an artist second. And isn't it better to say at the end of your life that you tried to make a difference?" Muzondo had suggested we meet behind the National Gallery in the Harare Gardens. It was a steamy morning, and thunderstorms threatened, but we stayed out in the open, the better to spot any government-sponsored eavesdroppers, although I didn't see how a dried-up patch of lawn was going to do much to protect us against the CIO. But Muzondo had written a play that had provoked the government, and he was talking to a foreign writer, and to do either of those things in this place and at this time was to court trouble.

A concerned person can't help but keep track: In the decade from 2001 to 2011 official oppression has forced at least 49 Zimbabwean journalists into exile, the fifth worst record in the world. Within Zimbabwe's borders, scores of national and a few international human-rights activists, writers, and photographers have been intimidated or arrested, and one local cameraman, suspected of passing photographs of a beaten-up Morgan Tsvangirai to foreign media, was murdered in 2007. Since 2000 Tsvangirai has been arrested numerous times and once nearly beaten to death by Mugabe's henchmen. In theory, freedom of speech is protected. In practice, a series of imaginatively broad laws attempt to ensure silence. Regardless of when or how Mugabe leaves power, it's going to take his country a long time to recover from him.

"How do we intend to solve our violent history if we can't talk about it?" Muzondo asked. "You combine my poverty with my fear, with my silence-life is not worth living. They might as well just do mass killing." Zimbabweans are in the fearful position of watching themselves become the unspoken, the unheard-the mute, whose stories will be told only by foreign correspondents and Western aid workers. Once boasting the highest literacy rate in Africa-more than 90 percent-some predict that Zimbabwe's literacy rate will fall to 75 percent by 2020.

"We know this. Without our voice, we have no choice," Muzondo said. "Without choice, where are we? We're forever stuck in violence."

But Zimbabwean writers, artists, and playwrights haven't given up yet. Robust, sometimes mordantly funny, politically controversial novels, art exhibitions, and plays appear faster than CIO agents can object to them. In the past eight years Muzondo has written half a dozen plays dealing with pressing social and political issues. His latest-No Voice, No Choice-was banned in August 2012 after an enthusiastically received run around the country. "People were coming up to us afterwards and saying, 'We were scared of what would happen to us if someone noticed us watching your play, but then we noticed you were not scared of performing it. We felt more courageous because of your bravery.'"

The letter from the national authorities banning the play was Orwellian in its nonsensical doublespeak: "Please be advised that the Board of Censors read your Play Script and observed that the play is about discouraging youths participating in political violence ... The play is inciteful and against the spirit of national healing." I turned the letter over, as if shaking up its words would make it more coherent, to say nothing of rectifying the unintentional pun (inciteful/insightful). "Someone felt uncomfortable with the truth," Muzondo said. "But that truth is this: We're all in this together. Neighbors have assaulted neighbors. Now we have to sit down together and face what it is we've done to one another. The government doesn't want us to have that conversation. But what if we did?"

This was never part of the political calculation. Eventually Zimbabweans might be brought together by their common bond of suffering and begin to insist on their own liberation. In fact, Mugabe seems to have deliberately turned so many ordinary Zimbabweans-soldiers and police officers, obviously, but also schoolboys ordered out of their classrooms to rape and torture-into perpetrators that there is now widespread fear a change of government might bring with it recrimination. "Victims of the political violence are afraid it will resurface with every election; perpetrators of the political violence are afraid it will end," Rutendo Munengami, an advocate for victims of rape, told me. "Everyone knows who the culprits are; they are our neighbors and officials. They are not hard to find. Those people are afraid of a government who will call them to account."

I met Munengami and fellow activist Margaret Mazvarira in the garden of a quiet Harare restaurant a few mornings after my meeting with Muzondo. The sun appeared to take up the whole sky, and musasa tree pods cracked, showering seeds on the barely rain-softened earth. The two women spoke over each other, finishing each other's sentences, confirming the connecting braid of shared experience between them.

In the early hours of June 3, 2003, Munengami-whose husband was then an MDC councillor-was torn from her bed, her nursing nine-month-old son still in her arms. While soldiers looked on, Munengami told me, she was raped by a prominent ZANU-PF minister. Afterward, the minister drove her to a police station in Harare, where she and her son were dangled over a pit of acid while the soldiers decided whether or not to kill her. "They wanted to throw the baby to the ground," Munengami said. "They shouted, 'He will be the same as the father. He will want to give the country to the white man.'"

Mazvarira was abducted in 2000 from her home in Chivhu, a small town south of Harare, and raped by two ZANU-PF CIO officers after her 17-year-old daughter, an MDC organizer, was killed by a petrol bomb. Mazvarira contracted HIV from the assault. "They told me, 'You and your daughter are Tsvangirai's bitches.'" When Mazvarira went to the police station to report the attack, the officer in charge refused to hear her case. "The police are only ZANU-PF," she said.

The two women are not placid about what happened to them, but what converted them from victims into activists is that they were never able to hold their attackers to account. "The government won't help us. No one can help us. It is up to us, ourselves, now. That is where we are." In 2009 Munengami launched Doors of Hope, a nonprofit organization that supports and speaks for victims of politically motivated rape. Doors of Hope now has 375 members from all over the country. "We are standing for women," Munengami said. "Those so-called war vets raped so many women during the liberation struggle, but they don't want to talk about it. So we are going to talk about it. Whether it's 1975, or now, we don't want this to continue. We have had enough. We are sick and tired of being quiet. Where has silence got us?"

In a nearby jacaranda tree, the call of a cape turtle dove echoed Zimbabwe's eternal lament, "My mother is dead, my father is dead, all my relatives are dead." From my recent travels across the country, I knew that organizations like Doors of Hope existed all over Zimbabwe. I had spoken to the director of Radio Dialogue, a small station in Bulawayo that had circumvented a ban on independent broadcasting by distributing cassettes and CDs to minibus drivers. I had spoken to survivors of political torture who had organized healing circles with their erstwhile attackers and were now running a nonprofit, Tree of Life, which had gone into scores of communities throughout the country holding workshops to help both victims and perpetrators recover from past political violence. I had spoken to the editors of Weaver Press in Harare, which still published brave, politically sensitive books, and I had picked up copies of poetry published by amaBooks in Bulawayo. I had spoken to artists and writers and doctors who were challenging the inevitability of a silent, violent future.

"I am like that tree," Mazvarira said suddenly, pointing toward the jacaranda. "I've had my branches cut, but I am not dead. I am attached to this soil, and it feeds my roots." She pushed her plate away. "Today I got to tell my story. I was heard. That is my rain." She leaned forward with a smile of the kind that can come only when there is still hope in a nearly hopeless place. "So please tell your world not to turn the page on us yet. Tell them to keep hearing us. We are still speaking."

Love, Loss, and What I Wore - and a Goodbye

from the production at DUCTAC

For the past three and a half years I have shared library duty with a very special lady, but this Saturday afternoon was our last shift together because Deborah is leaving Dubai now to go back to England. She is calm and kind. She puts up with my gabbling rants and makes really great book reading recommendations. She casts a cozy spell over library members who all adore her. Both our regular Saturday afternoon visitors and I will sorely miss her warm presence. 
The last night of DUCTAC’s production of Nora and Delia Ephron’s play "Love, Loss, and What I Wore" (I think it was a DUCTAC show) coincided with our last shift together. Deborah very cleverly suggested that we go to the theatre and watch the play so that she could tick off going-to-a-theater-production at DUCTAC from her list and we could have a lovely evening out after her last shift at the library.

I love Norah Ephron’s work. She wrote the script for "When Harry Met Sally." She directed (and wrote the script for) "Julie and Julia" and "Sleepless in Seattle."  Nora Ephron had an “illustrious carrier as a screenwriter, producer, director, journalist, playwright and author.” Her collected journalistic essays have had me weeping with joy and sorrow - sometimes in the same piece. I was sad when she died because all her lovely writing stops. Bearing all that in mind, it hurts me to say that I did not enjoy this play. I have agonized for a couple of days trying to work out why I was left unmoved by this show. Was it the script? Was it the acting? Was it the direction? The staging?
All the right boxes seemed to be ticked. I could not fault the acting. There was nothing obviously wrong with the direction. The lighting was simple but effective, ditto the set. This production was well rehearsed; the actresses did not miss a beat. Sadly somehow, at the end of my cogitating my impression remained the same, from the script to the performance it was just a bit flat and a bit safe. I blame this on the staging. This show was intended to be presented as a sort of reading with scripts on music stands with the actresses sitting and presenting the 25 odd stories. I do not think this worked. Just because this was the intention of the writers does not mean it is the only way or sometimes the best way to present the piece. I feel much the same way about script cutting by the way. Writers are not always the best judges of how their work should be staged or edited. Now let me state here that clearly I am wrong because Nora Ephron had a brilliant career and I don’t have one at all. Fortunately, however, in my blog I am master of the universe and can believe what I want.
I think that a bit of bravery with the staging would have made this production really special. It was written for six players and in this production it was well adapted for four actresses. I did have one bugbare; I did not understand why the slimmest actress was playing the role of a plump woman and why a buxom actress was playing the part of someone flat chested. I was a bit confused by that. The cast was clearly talented and knew what they were doing so from that perspective the roles could have been swapped. However, having said that, this casting may have been the only way to adapt the show to cater for a cast of four.
You may feel that I have been overly critical of this show. I have seen many productions that have been far worse and I have been much kinder or I have simply not written anything at all. I justify my criticism of this production as it was directed and acted by professionals, not amateurs with no theatre training whatsoever. This show should have been somehow more; it had all the right ingredients and the talent but just did not work for me.
On a technical note I was pleased to see that the lighting / sound box was better hidden from public view than most of the productions I have been at. I was sitting farther back than I normally do so I don’t know if that is why or if the front of the balcony was dressed differently. If it was dressed differently other productions should find out what was done and follow suite.
Usually shows in Dubai start at least half an hour late. This infuriates me. It shows bad manners on the part of the audience and a lack of control on the part of the producers. This show started fifteen minutes late. That must be a record for Dubai. I challenge the rest of the Drama Groups to improve their curtain up timing to match that stated on the tickets. Maybe the tickets and advertising should say something on them like:
Time: 7.45pm for a prompt start at 8.00pm. Late arrivals will be admitted during the interval.
What I would like to have happen to late arrivals is to see them being locked in stocks outside the theatre -as an example. Sadly Theatre is not the most well supported of entertainments so really punishing late comers would not do at all. SIGH. What to do.

A rave review from The National HERE

Friday, 24 May 2013

Only In Dubai Moment

Yes - seriously...........


Fined for submarine cruise off JBR beach

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Wednesday, May 16, 2012
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A submarine owner’s hopes of an underwater adventure were sunk by a leak and eagle-eyed police officers, a court was told.

The Turkish man appeared at Dubai Court of Misdeamours yesterday where he explained how he had taken his new Dhs35,000 toy for a test dive off the coast at JBR beach.
However, instead of going 20,000 leagues under the sea, he ran into trouble. The vessel owner said: “I loaded it onto a pick-up truck and went to the beach. I unloaded it into the water and got inside.
“But when I reached a depth of about 2m I noticed there was a leak. I returned to the beach. I was tired so I took the battery out so no one could use it, left the submarine on the beach and returned home.
“I contacted the company I bought it from and asked about the leak. A couple of days later I received a call from police asking me to go to a station.”
Two Emirati policemen stated in court records how they were “surprised” to find the submarine while on patrol.
The 34-year-old defendant said he bought the two-seater vessel for Dhs35,000 from a shipping firm in Al Quoz.
“The company agreed to sell it to me in Sept­ember but said they would first carry out maint­enance on it,” the Turkish man said. He finally took delivery of it before taking it on its maiden voyage last month.
The defendant claimed he was in the process of registering the 567kg vessel, which can travel up to 8kph, when police found it. The submariner was found guilty of cruising illegally and fined Dhs1,000.

Sunday, 12 May 2013

The Nespresso

You may remember my friend Frances? She pops in and out of Dubai a couple of times a year on her way to and from India, England or Zimbabwe. When Frances is visiting we get sumptuous meals cooked for us by her. Our last meal together was  a delicious concoction of clams and mussels, with wine, on our balcony overlooking the sea. YUMMMMM. Needless to say, but I will,  Frances' culinary opinion matters in my life.

On the last couple of trips she has hinted heavily that we NEED a Nespresso machine. Clearly the French press in the Mackenzie household is not up to snuff. If the truth be told we do make the most crappy coffee on the planet. No amount of money spent on special or  exotic  or organically gently grown,  picked and roasted coffee beans seems to make the blindest bit of difference. No advice from experts and friendly enthusiasts seems to improve our offerings, so she may have a point.

Frances was also very keen for us to GO TO THE NESPRESSO SHOP. She wanted us to TRY THE COFFEE IN THE SHOP. She was enthusiastic, even passionate about this. I would go so far as to say she was Evangelical. Frances is not, to the best of my knowledge except when it comes to Apple computers , a Brand follower so her eagerness for us to purchase a coffee machine and not any machine but that Brand and in The Brand store and not some arbitrary distributor was intriguing. Sadly, what with one thing and another, we did not get to the Nespresso shop with Frances whilst she was in Dubai. SORRY Frances. Now I understand.

Have any of you seen the  Nespresso " Like A Star" advert? With George Clooney? Well watch it. It explains everything.

Going to the Nespresso boutique is exactly like the advert. You feel like you are buying  Liquid Gold.  Actually I suspect that involves a lot less ceremony.You are loved up and down from the moment you arrive. Nothing is too much trouble. You are the most important customer they have in the whole wide world. IT IS WONDERFUL. Want to sample every coffee in the shop? I am sure they would let you and probably carry your  caffeinated to the moon and back  self  to a chauffeur driven limo and drop you off at home. Want your coffee capsules delivered to your door? Of course they will. It is no trouble at all. Want that gift wrapped? Want another coffee? Anything else they can do for you? Remember you are now a member of The Club and nothing is too much trouble.
I did not want to leave. I noticed that there were no squishy sofas in the boutique. Just as bloody well because if there had been I would still be there delicately sipping coffee with a racing heart and shaking hands. 
What is the coffee like? We have had our first couple of shots in our coffee jinxed home and the coffee is lovely. But frankly who cares. When you are treated like a star  the coffee could taste like mud. I would probably still buy it!
As a post script. This morning Bryan was out of bed at the crack of dawn ( for him) and in the kitchen making himself a morning coffee. A feather could have knocked me down.

Friday, 10 May 2013

Backstage presents 12 Angry Jurors at Ductac

12 Angry Jurors

I am so busy, soooooo busy, and there is a lot of catching up to do. I am going to start with Theatre and what is on RIGHT NOW.
Yup, you can hurry on down to Mall of the Emirates,  pop into DUCTAC's Kilachand Studio and get tickets for 12 Angry Jurors. 4 shows left today and tomorrow (10 and 11 May ) at 2.30pm & 7.30pm.


Disclaimer: A good supportive wife would warn you that she was biased in favour of a show when her spouse is  involved in the show. I have to warn you that if my spouse is in a show (and he is in this one) I am hyper critical. I know it is so, so mean of me. I am working on this aspect of my character and will give a fair and balanced review without starting  off from a nit picking nagging wife point of view.  My husband plays Juror # 3. The most important part in the whole play (and the centre of the universe) he is magnificent on stage and off and you all have to go and see the show because he is in it. Fair and balanced enough?
The Blurb: "A 16-year-old boy stands trial for having stabbed and killed his father. Twelve people from different backgrounds and personalities are brought together to form a jury. The guilt or innocence of the boy, beyond a reasonable doubt, lies in the hands of the twelve jurors. Will their verdict lead to death sentence?"
The Background of the Original Screenplay: The story is steeped in peoples attitudes to issues of racism and prejudice and judging people by cultural stereotypes. The screenplay was produced in the 1954, the same year that the supreme court of the USA outlawed  segregation in public schools . It took ten years before the Civil Rights Act of 1964 banned segregation in the workplace and public accommodation. In the 1950's racism was legally supported and socially acceptable. Nowadays being a racist is clearly understood to be wrong, is socially unacceptable  and legally unsupportable.  In the 1950's women were very much the homemakers and still lived in the shadow of their husbands in a patriarchal society. People were expected to grow up and get married and make a "nuclear family". Anything outside of that was somehow wrong or bad. This story comes loaded with a heavy burden of responsibility to show  the prejudices of the day together with the buttoned up aggression of the "White Male" fighting for his traditionally accepted place in a world that was shifting and slipping away from them. Women and "People of Colour" were increasingly raising their voices in protest after an age of  white male dominance. 12 Angry Men.
How can  you take this heavy subject and present it in  a multi-cultural  and mixed sex production? 12 Angry Jurors. Well go and watch the play to find out how it is done.
My Take: You may have gathered that I felt this to be an ambitious undertaking. The script is unforgiving and relies heavily on characterisation by the actors, careful pace setting by the director and  mood creation by the set and lighting designers.
Director Rashmi Kotriwala and her cast presented a sensitive, appropriately interpreted production.  The roles taken up by female characters where cleverly interwoven into the story in such a way that it was perfectly natural to have them there. The cast worked well together. The actors understood their characters and were comfortable in their roles allowing the audience to enjoy the unfolding drama.
 Bryan Mackenzie (Juror 3) and Teresa Lundgren ( Juror 8)  who play the central  opposing points of view in the play worked well together. Teresa is convincing as the reluctant dissenting voice and takes the audience through the issues in the story with a sincere subtle performance. Bryan, playing the angriest man has the audience disliking him yet feeling empathy towards him. Not easy to do, so well done you. I loved that all twelve jurors, no matter how few lines they had in the play, came across as distinct characters without drawings attention to themselves inappropriately. When actors were not acting they were engaged in the action on the stage. It is difficult to focus when you don't have something to say. The temptation to over act reactions is an ever present danger particularly is a close, small, space such as this stage. This did not happen - the focus through out the production was were it should be. 

A special mention must go to Aroushi Beauty Salon and Spa for the hair and make up. What a treat to be in an amateur theatre production in Dubai  and be able to make genuine criticism of the hair styling. All the ladies hair was just right for the era. I really appreciated the effort made by Backstage to get the hair right. THANK YOU. It is the attention to details that makes my theatre lovers heart sing. My criticism? I would not have given Juror 8 bangs. She is a grown up woman from the 1950's. Bangs were for girls. Oh and I would have combed down Juror 5 hair. It was a bit too modern. NIT PICKING but you have given me the opportunity  to be able to do this -which is wonderful. The costumes were also spot on. I did think that all the male jurors should have had plain shirts. In the 1950's no one would have appeared in court in a checked / patterned shirt. But that is my take on it and did not in anyway detract from the production. Just me being fussy about the fashions of the times and the setting. And my bug bear, pantyhose on stage for women always. Juror 2 played by Widaad Pangarker looked the part from the top of her head to the tips of her toes. I loved her costuming.
I have another bug bear to go with my pantyhose thing  - about the length of a play. Again this is a very personal thing. If a play runs to two hours it is too long. I think that as a matter of course a director should go through a script and ask themselves what they can cut. And then cut it. The first half of the show was a bit too much. There was stuff in the script that did not add to the characters or the story and really was not needed.
Lilyan Tannous  gave a delightful performance as a ditsy advertising gal. Arjun Burman, as the foreman, had exactly the right nervy trying to please and trying to get it rightness to his part. Honestly all the actors had great characters set down.  I enjoyed all the performances. It was lovely to see a large cast have such character without being overwhelming. My nag is to do with line delivery. Actors cannot be thinking their lines. It is not enough to know the lines. When an actor is  thinking about  his or her lines as the lines are being said ( all other things being equal) it makes the difference between  a good  performance and great performance. 
The set worked well. When I saw the set I wondered how the cast was going to move around the set in a convincing manner. The blocking was well done. The cues to move were natural and made sense. The use of the areas of the stage was good and allowed for natural groupings that just worked. Well done.
I do think that more could have been done with lighting. The play builds up in tension. The script offers up a brilliant device in the form  of the weather. It is hot and a storm is brewing and breaks. More should have been done with this parallel to the story line development. We knew there was a storm brewing but we could not see it.  I would have liked lighting as the play progressed to shown this. The storm breaking needed more than the sound of rain. It needed lighting effects to compliment the heavy mood on the stage. The lack of this does not detract from the production. I just think it could have added to it.
12 Angry Jurors is another solid production from Backstage.  I had a lovely night out and went to home on a high. There are not many performances so change your plans and get down to the theatre.
This production is Backstage's 40th  show in its three and a half year history. That is quite a feat all on its own. Backstage are adventurous  in their production choices, committed  to progress and  absolutely worth supporting.

Mingling cast and audience after the show.

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