Members of Qatar’s long-standing community theater group Doha Players are putting the final touches to preparations ahead of their latest production of Shakespeare’s play The Tempest.
The nearly 40-strong cast and crew have been preparing since auditions were held in May for their version of the classic, which has been brought alive with the addition of singing, dancing and music.
It opens for a four-day run at the Qatar National Convention Center (QNCC) in a week’s time.
Directing the production in his Doha Players’ debut is former Broadway and off-Broadway writer James Mirrione, along with Shakespeare expert and author Kim Sturgess.
Mirrione, a Professor of English literature at Qatar University, has been in the Gulf for more than decade. Prior to coming to Qatar two years ago, he spent nine years coordinating a theater and drama project with the United Arab Emirates University in Al Ain.
Sturgess is also a QU academic, and is an assistant professor of English and American literature at the university.
The Tempest was written as a comedy around the year 1610 and is said to be Shakespeare’s last play. Set on a fictional remote island in the Maghreb in northwest Africa, it follows the story of Prospero, the double-crossed Duke of Milan who will stop at nothing to seek revenge on his enemies and restore his daughter, Miranda, to royal honor.
Sorceror Prospero conjures up a dramatic storm, from which the play is named, in a bid to get rid of his brother, Alonso, who deposed him to become the new King of Naples.
Over the five acts, the play tackles themes of sibling rivalry, power and young love – themes that Mirrione said he hoped would appeal to a wide cross-section of Doha’s theater-going audience.
“Shakespeare’s last play has elements that can appeal to the adults in the audience who are at different stages of their life, those who are more mature, but it also appeals to the young.
“It’s about a young couple meeting each other for the first time and an arranged marriage. It also has themes of growing old and of mercy and taking revenge – universal elements that are life-long and that we are challenged with every day,” Mirrione told Doha News.
Mirrione said he has had a long-standing attraction to the “spectacle and illusion” of the play, a version of which he produced in the UAE.
“It is also flexible to interpretation and allows you to add music to it. In fact, this play has music written into the script, allowing us to take advantage of the musical talents of some of the residents here,” he added.
In what could be seen as a twist on Shakespearean times, when male actors played female roles, in this production the character of Prospero is played by a woman, Mione van der Merwe, who directed Doha Players’ production of Shakespeare’s Macbeth earlier this year and was also director for the musical Les Miserables last year.
It is not the first time a woman has been cast in the role; British actress Helen Mirren played Prospera in the 2010 film version of the play.
Rehearsals for the play have been in full swing since September, with the actors meeting three times a week for the past two months, including intensive all-day sessions during the weekends ahead of the opening night on Nov. 7.
The Tempest is Doha Players’ second performance at the QNCC, near Education City, and Mirrione said he hopes that the choice of a national venue might pique the interest of more Qatari nationals to attend.
“We generally don’t have many Qatari audience members at our productions, and one of the reasons for choosing the QNCC is to encourage them to come and see the drama and see that it is a viable and appropriate form of entertainment.
“I’d like to remove some of the misconceptions about theater. I am urging all my students to bring their families for the night and try it out,” Mirrione added.
Doha Players’ The Tempest is on at QNCC from Nov. 7 until Nov 10. The production starts at 7pm lasts two and half hours with an interval. Tickets cost QR100 for adults and QR75 for under 18s and can be bought through q-tickets website here.
Do you plan to check out the performance? Thoughts?