One Mad Camel: Dreaming of a White Christmas | Absurd Person Singular

One Mad Camel: Dreaming of a White Christmas | Absurd Person Singular

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Rosine Saad is One Mad Camel. Her series of reviews are honest, no-filter takes on what she sees.

Dubai Drama Group (DDG) gives us one more time a theatrical masterpiece, directed by Penny MacKenzie and produced by Dolly Jitani.

Divided in 3 acts, even though it’s the evolution of the same characters from one act to another, every act is written with its own curve and can be showcased by itself as an individual short play.

Absurd Singular Person - Dubai Courtyard Playhouse

The performance the cast gave was tight, paced, well-acted, putting out all the absurdity without overacting. The characters were genuine, believable, reminding us of people we know. Their character traits were well expressed in the script and supported by good direction and a strong acting.

Kudos to the producer and her related teams, they completely changed the stage setting into 3 different kitchens for every scene, changing the sink placements, the fridge, the kitchen door location, etc. In order to do that, the audience enjoyed 2 intervals of 15 minutes each, allowing them to move, have a little snack and come back fresh for the coming act.

Absurd Singular Person - Dubai Courtyard Playhouse

The props and the ladies’ costumes made it all 70’s. I was disappointed by the lack of the 70’s fashion trends for the male actors, no flare pants, no long hair or facial side boards, no funny looking shirts … Nope! None of that and, Yup! Disappointing.

Absurd Singular Person - Dubai Courtyard Playhouse

OCD as I can be when watching a play, I was annoyed by the fact that the character Jane, played by Diana Duff, walked out of the house twice, and in again, under pouring rain, yet she was completely dry, even though the dialogue she was having with her husband, Sidney, played by Steven Wyatt, was about how soaking wet she was. One 0.5L bottle of water emptied on her hat and coming down her over coat would have done the trick, and eased my pain and not touched her over sprayed 70’s hair style. She even empties her boots and the tech has a sound effect of water in the sink instead of real water in her boots with soaked tights … I was in agony there!

This play is as absurd as its title, at some moments, making no sense whatsoever, yet I was glued to my seat, not wanting to miss any minute of it, wondering how the writer will end it and how much more the actors can carry it on without dropping the pace, the acting or jumping to over acting. And it always ended in the middle of script utter nonsense and stage euphoria, that somehow made sense to us, at least to me.

Absurd Singular Person - Dubai Courtyard Playhouse

Me, being from a non-English/non-American educational system, am finding a great pleasure discovering the masterpieces of contemporary and modern plays. The last author I studied was Charles Dickens and some other authors of his era.

Walking out of that play, kissing the actors, and the team, I realized how ‘white’ this play was… too white, too western, too white, I can’t find a better description to it. Not that ‘white’ is not good, more of ‘white’ I can’t identify with, ‘white’ I can’t audition for, unless I master the accent required to be … ‘white’.

And my mind made a little flashback to realize how many ‘white’ plays were put on by DDG. Yet, they are among the best theatre productions I have ever seen!

I don’t think I am able to put my finger on what exactly I was to express in that thought ….

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The closing performance will be on Sunday December 4th, at 8pm. It is a play not to miss! Do watch out for the Apartheid washing machine and have a good laugh for me.

Rosine Out!

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Rosine Saad

Chronically ill with an acute case of No-Filter-Disease. Getting through with her sarcasm and a dash of humor.

Comments
  • Hussain#1

    December 4, 2016

    Rosine makes a very interesting point about ethnicity that I feel is worth discussing – here is my take on the elephant in the room. We have to recognize that many of the world’s greatest plays are very much products of their time and place. Oscar Wilde’s wit and playful satire is primarily set in a world of quintessentially English privilege. The Dubai Drama Group recently put on a fantastic production of “The importance of being Earnest” with what one could only describe as a “white” cast, but that is appropriate for the story being told in its original setting / context (this is a critical point). One only has to watch the recent film “Belle” (loosely based on the true story of Dido Elizabeth Belle) to get a sense of how unusual it was to find a black woman in privileged circles in 18th century England.

    However, one could argue that ethnicity should not be an issue to a modern, enlightened audience. There was a little controversy this year over the casting of a black actress in the role of Hermoine Granger for the stage adaptation of “Harry Potter and the Cursed Child” in London. The author herself, JK Rowling, labelled much of this criticism as racist. I recall watching a stage version of the children’s musical “Chitty Chitty Bang Bang” with my sister a long time ago where a black actor was cast in the role of Caractacus Potts (played in the classic film by Dick Van Dyke). As a childhood fan of the film, I have to admit that I was initially distracted by this casting, but I quickly settled into the play and thoroughly enjoyed the actor’s performance. Sometimes our preconditioning, hidden biases (?) and cultural antennas have to be challenged and recalibrated. But context should not be ignored if it is a fundamental underpinning of the play in question.

    The Junction recently put on an excellent production of “One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest” which unashamedly boasted a culturally diverse cast; multiple ethnicities and accents. They had Indian, American and British actors / characters in a lunatic asylum – one could easily argue that is perfectly appropriate for a Dubai-set asylum! However, the script of this play – for the most part – suggested an American setting from the 1960s/70s (not to mention the long shadow of the beloved Jack Nicholson film) – most notably with the slang used by the lead character. I enjoyed the play and felt the cast generally gelled well. For example, you had a “white” Nurse Ratched and a “brown” Billy Bibbit (an important character who is driven to suicide) – both gave powerful and compelling performances. Their differing ethnicities and accents did not distract me in any way from the performance and flow of the story. In contrast, I heard a few people express doubts about the casting of one of the characters – perhaps the suspension of disbelief in his case could have been strengthened with minor changes to the dialogue or the context / setting of the play.

    An example of an ambitious but highly successful adaptation of a classic Shakespearean play in a different cultural context can be found here – check out this review of “Julius Caesar” with an all-black cast that is set in an African context: http://www.newyorker.com/books/page-turner/an-african-caesar

    The bottom line is that the director needs to think carefully about their target / expected audience, the way they want to tell the story, and how the audience is likely to respond. There is not necessarily a right or wrong answer. There is no reason why an Oscar Wilde play like “The importance of being Earnest” can’t have a multi-ethnic cast, but context should not be ignored. I would argue that with a more obviously ethnic cast you could make minor changes to adapt the play; such as replacing the reference to cucumber sandwiches (an absurdly English creation!) with a different food that is enjoyed by the elite class of a different culture. Or you may argue that the script is so good and the themes so universal that any good actor could win the audience over. Or should the audience be challenged rather than won over? Back to JK Rowling and the Harry Potter play…

    Ultimately, actors should be chosen and judged on the quality of their performances; irrespective of their ethnicity. But when we talk about “suitability for a role” things become trickier. Is the play firmly rooted in a particular time and place? Can you transport your audiences to that time and place (and suspend their disbelief) with the actors you have chosen? Skilled directors and actors can do almost anything if they are not afraid to address the elephant in the room highlighted by Rosine. But for the long-term, we need more local, organic plays to be written that reflect the multicultural world we live in. A fine example would be the forthcoming “Howzat” play based in modern Dubai by Alex Broun.

    The good news is that Dubai’s cultural scene is blessed with unlimited creative energy and a wonderful diversity of talent. Anything is possible. And we have an increasing number of plays to enjoy and discuss. Long may it continue and I hope The Camel Stub helps lead the way.

    Reply
  • Rosine Saad#2

    December 5, 2016

    Wow! Thanks Hussein for taking the time to write this comment.
    I hope the theatre community will have these discussions more often.
    Danu, from last year, started widening its horizon and producing non-irish plays, and with this having a wider range of actors. They started with ‘I am Yusuf And This Is My Brother’, Dracula was the second in the series. Did you watch it?! (Technically no 😉 hehe).
    In Lebanon, in addition to locally written plays, we’re into adapting lately, and I’m loving it, I played in a couple.
    I’m very hopeful for the coming seasons here in Dubai.

    Rosine.

    Reply
    • Rosine#3

      December 5, 2016

      i didn’t mention H72 production, former Backstage or 3/4 half, because they already work with a mixed cast.
      Danu and DDG are more kean on portraying the era of the play to the letter.
      I personally am an adapt of the theater being a mirror to the human nature. With a little bit of adjustment, the play can be believable in any language, culture, context, etc.

      Reply
  • Hussain#4

    December 5, 2016

    Rosine, I agree that most, if not all, plays can be adapted to fit any time and place. But the directors should take the time to make those adjustments. Ignoring cultural or ethnic context (if it important to the play – it might not be for many plays) and throwing in any actors might be jarring for the audience. If you get it wrong, you might get the same audience reaction as the 1956 film “The Conqueror” starring John Wayne as the mongol warrior Genghis Khan: “What was the director smoking when this was cast?!”. True story of jarring casting: https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=AN6OG237UJQ

    Reply

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