Dubai Drama Group says its new production of Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking will have you rolling in the aisles. Will Milner meets the play’s director to talk about the challenges of getting it ready for the stage.
Harold Pinter, George Bernard Shaw, William Shakespeare, Tom Stoppard – when the amateur thespian society the Dubai Drama Group (DDG) selects its forthcoming productions it is with the clear goal of achieving populist success. For its latest show, at Ductac, the long-serving group may just have chosen the most crowd-pleasing project to date: Sir Alan Ayckbourn’s Relatively Speaking.
Approaching its 50th birthday and regarded as the master modern playwright’s first true hit, the comedy was an easy choice for the ambitious drama group’s end of season performance. ‘I had two Ayckbourn plays I wanted the group to do. This and a play called Confusions. Jennifer (Stelco, the production’s director) had acted with the group before and wanted to try a different role with the DDG this year, so I gave them to her to read,’ explains Dubai Drama Group chairperson, Cliff Single.
It is a moment Jennifer remembers well: ‘I actually read the play on a plane and was laughing so loud people started giving me strange looks. Straight away I wanted to do the play and direct it. I was already imagining what we could do with it.’
Such are the challenges involved in staging drama in Dubai that a full year has passed between those early conversations and the play arriving at the Kilachand Studio at Ductac this month. ‘We are a community theatre group and a not-for-profit organisation so everything we do is a challenge. It has to be organised with a budget of next to nothing and with actors who have very busy lives outside of the stage,’ explains Single.
That means the tight-knit group of around 100 regular members and in particular its organising committee need to meticulously plan each of the productions. Members include full-time mothers, teachers, HR managers and a wide variety of people. All, however, are drawn together by a love of drama.
This is the fifth and final show of the loosely defined season and although the director and play had already been chosen this time last year, it was not until February of this year that auditions were held and a three-month rehearsal period began.
This was the point at which DDG regular, Brook Butterworth joined the show. ‘I’ve been involved with DDG for seven years and have been lucky enough to be in several shows. Ayckbourn’s plays are so tightly scripted and such a joy to perform it is a real treat,’ says the American drama enthusiast.
With six shows scheduled for an intensive yet short run it is an intense period for the society. ‘We are an amateur group but the standards are high. If this is the one time of year that somebody comes to the theatre in Dubai we want it to be a great show for them. Then maybe they will come twice the year after,’ explains Butterworth.
Relatively Speaking, the cast and behind-the-scenes crew believe, has all the ingredients it takes to appeal to a Dubai audience. Based around the farcical notions of mistaken identity and English manners it is the story of two romantically connected couples and the various tensions between the four actors are played out through Ayckbourn’s famed style.
‘This is a very British play but the experiences are universal and there is a great appeal to many of the different nationalities and cultures in Dubai,’ says Butterworth. ‘There is an awkwardness to the small talk between the different characters that is funny and a lot of people will enjoy that.’
Dhs90. Wednesday June 11-13. Ductac, Mall of the Emirates, Al Barsha (050 652 0790). www.timeouttickets.com
Would you like to get involved with theatre in Dubai? Contact these groups for auditions and information
Dubai Drama Group
This organisation has been presenting plays in the Emirates for more than 25 years and has regular auditions for plays as well as monthly meetings.
Hosts plays ranging from Shakespeare’s Hamlet to self-penned works by members with the most recent production being Arthur Miller’s The Crucible.
Kids’ Theatre Works!
For aspiring young actors (and their parents) this group is regarded as one of the city’s best drama schools. Workshops and classes lead on to full productions for more talented performers.