Monday, February 10, 2014

Looming large in Dubai theatre

Visiting Loom Ensemble members Sasha Bogdanowitsch and Michael Bauer joined their now Dubai-based fellow members Raphael Sacks and Neva Cockrell at thejamjar, staging their experimental play Say I Am You for the first time here. While the Dubai-based members have been running workshops and short public performances at the same venue for some time now, this marks their debut feature play in the UAE, and is a testament to the potential of online collaboration in theatre production.

We have had plays in the genre in Dubai and Abu Dhabi, including ones featuring dance, but the ensemble brought in something fresh with laudable integration of excellent synchronized singing, and live music performance by actors who often made use of unconventional instruments like panpipes.

Multiple stories taking place in different times and places took turns onstage as they interwove on approach to a shared conclusion. Some of the cast play roles in different stories, so there had to be a lot of quick costume changes. I think the play's greatest strength is the colorful and well-written characters, along with some memorable bits of dialogue for those paying close attention. Michael's performance was especially commendable. I also liked the light use of props (which included visual projection, symbolic objects and found objects), and the use of lighting. A new semi-stepped seating arrangement greatly helped with the visibility of lower parts of stage space. After the show, the Q&A session with the cast and director answered many of our burning questions.

A couple of days later, performing as the Loom Vocal Trio at The Fridge's Fridge Concert Series, Sasha and Raphael sang together with Kate Hamilton, who also directed Say I Am You, and is herself a rather talented singer. Much of the music that night was composed by Sasha too, with cryptic and elemental lyrics sung in forms somewhere between monastic chanting and communal tribal song. Some of the instruments from the play were used in this concert, including a jaw harp in a mesmerizing solo by Sasha.

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