A humorous, whistle-stop tour through all of William Shakespeare’s plays in just 97 minutes and a Qatar Philharmonic Orchestra concert inspired by works of the bard are among the highlights of this year’s Great British Festival.
More than a dozen events will take place during the two-week long annual celebration of all things British, which began yesterday and runs until March 19.
Launching the festival at Katara Opera House this week, British Ambassador to Qatar Ajay Sharma said:
“While people may say that everyone in Qatar knows about the UK already, actually there is a real opportunity to share more about what the UK can offer. This isn’t about introducing people to the UK – it is about deepening the knowledge and understanding that people here in Qatar have about Britain.
“Supported through activities and events like these, we can encourage further cooperation in other areas too,” he added.
Shakespeare with a twist
The main events to take place during the festival focus on the English playwright Shakespeare, as part of a wider global campaign by the British government to make his works more accessible.
To mark the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s death, the Reduced Shakespeare Company will put on two performances of their award-winning show The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (abridged) [revised] at Katara Drama Theater on March 11.
Described as an “irreverent, fast-paced romp” through all 37 of Shakespeare’s plays in 97 minutes, the three-man group has performed this show across the world, and it has since spawned nearly a dozen similar productions by the same team.
The show ran for nine years in London’s West End, before heading to off-Broadway, the White House and events in Australia, Israel, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Japan, Malta, Singapore and Bermuda, in addition to other venues in the US, UK and Europe.
Tickets cost from QR150 to QR250 for two performances on March 11 – at 1pm then again at 7pm. They can be bought online through Q-Tickets.
Culture and cuisine
Meanwhile, the film of the popular Shakespeare play Much Ado About Nothing, starring British actors Kenneth Branagh and Emma Thompson, will be screened for free at Katara’s Drama Theater on March 15.
There will also be afternoon teas, British-themed brunches and roast dinners at hotels throughout Doha during the fortnight.
Additionally, experts from Qatar Museums and UCL Qatar will give a free talk at the Museum of Islamic Art Cafe about the origins of Qatar and its historic towns on March 17.
Sporting events and British-style spring fetes will also be part of the lineup.
The festival will close on March 19 with a performance by QPO of a selection of music inspired by Shakespeare’s plays, including Tchaikovsky’s Romeo and Juliet.
The concert, at Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) near Education City, is already sold out, according to the orchestra’s website.
The festival follows the Qatar-UK Year of Culture in 2013, which involved collaborations between the two countries in art, commerce, culture, education and science.
Since then, smaller annual festivals have taken place each year, not only for the approximately 25,000 Brits living in Qatar but also for the wider community.
You can see a full schedule of this year’s festival events here.
For Qataris interested in studying in the UK, informational events will be held on March 13 and 14.
There were 2,200 Qataris undertaking higher education courses in the UK last year and around 800 studying language courses, a representative from the British Council said. The UK is keen to expand this.
While the ambassador did not say if the UK would introduce a VIP visa system for Qataris visiting Britain, similar to what was launched in the UAE earlier this year, the existing electronic visa waiver system is being improved, he said.
The system has been previously criticized by some nationals as being confusing to navigate.
“We are always trying to improve our visa service, whether it’s for VIPs or ordinary Qataris,” Sharma said adding that further details on upgrades to the service may be announced in the coming weeks.