On January 6th, 2017, the guys at The Red Curtains alongside the talented Amawri Ezayah launched their debut play in Jeddah’s Literary Culture Club’s Stage. I only knew about the play two days before it actually started, and I was pretty excited that something new and refreshing like this was happening in Jeddah, so I immediately jumped on board, and got myself a ticket. I attended the play, and experienced it from start to finish, and here are my thoughts on it:
Setting The Tone:
One of the first things that struck me instantly as I went inside was how much effort was put into setting up the atmosphere for the play. A lonely chair stood still on top of a high platform in the middle of the stage, with some plants attached to the platform, conveying an ancient fictional set up. It also hints at the narrative that will follow once the play starts, in the sense that the chair signifies some sort of hierarchy, and a feel of loneliness.
The room was pitch black with some blue lighting shining on the chair, making it the center of attention. All of this was complemented with a very melancholic piano piece that was very captivating. All this set up helped set the tone perfectly for the play, by now I was so ready for this!
To my surprise, the entire narrative was actually quite comical, which I didn’t really mind really, but it just wasn’t on point with the whole atmospherics and build up that was present before the play. Regardless of that, the plot itself was pretty simple, a tale of kings and betrayals, a tale as old as time, and it’s exactly how the play starts actually, the king Ubo running and getting zoned by people he knew for 60 years. The use of the Egyptian accent in the dialogue was definitely one of the highlights of the play, it felt fitting because of the comedic and comical nature of the play, and plot had a lot of funny punchlines that kept me captivated despite some tedious scenes that felt like fill ins. I genuinely enjoyed the plot, because it was executed in a refreshing comical way that doesn’t really compromise on the theme, but the problem here was the narrative. It felt very disconnected at times, and by the end of the play, there was no proper payoff or buildup to the climax… It just ended. I believe the play would benefit a lot from having a much more coherent narrative, and a proper payoff.
The cast of character was an extreme joy to behold! A lot of charming personalities, and well written dialogues made the characters very appealing, almost every singles one of them. Ubo and all of the other character stuck to their characters all the way from start to finish, even when they reached points where they had to improvise. Though one thing that felt pretty weak to me was the rabbit character, even though he had the potential to be an amazing addition to the cast. The Rabbit signified the outsider, the stranger, he’s basically the narrator of the story, and would pop up mid scenes most of the times to explain some of the things that are happening, but every line of dialogue he uttered was pretty weak and uninteresting, and instead of him being a pivotal part of the play, he just ended up a drag to it. He was incredibly uninteresting, despite him being the most interesting character in the beginning. Other than that, all of the other characters were on point, and served their roles perfectly, which leads me to my next point…
The portrayal of the characters were amazing, Amawri and alongside the other actors did such an incredible job. They never broke character, and at some points some of the audience would crack a joke, or make a comment, and the actors responded to those jokes and comment with spectacular improvisation! Amawri literally feels like he was born to act, every scene he was in was just pure joy. He really did give the character of King Ubo justice. And the other actors also did an amazing job, the chancellor was always content and even when he got hurt accidentally, he kept character. The brother had to talk in a different type of accent and managed to never make a single mistake. The son, the adviser, the guard, and the stranger, they all did an amazing job… Except the rabbit. Such a wasted potential on the rabbit, he could’ve been amazing!
One thing that felt pretty lacking to me was the stage, it was literally empty. Just the platform and the chair. I think in order to make the play much more captivating, it should’ve had a lot of different stage aesthetics to compliment the set. However, the lighting was spectacular, it adapted to certain situations perfectly, and was on point with some of the musical scenes (Yes, there were a couple of musical scenes!) and the costumes were also great, it kind of gave the sense that these characters come from a different species or race without really having to say it explicitly, and that was great. But despite the play having some musical scenes, the music itself was very lacking. There was only one theme song that kept on playing over and over again (With a different rendition) and the musical scenes used licensed music such as X Ambassador’s Jungle and Survivor’s Eye Of The Tiger.
All in all, The guys at The Red Curtains alongside Amawri have done an amazing job, but still had some flawed, and a lot of capacity to improve. I’m glad to have attended this, and I really look forward to what they’re gonna do next. Jeddah needs more of these shows, and it needs more talented artists to express their visions. These guys have lit the fire, and hopefully it’ll get bigger and bigger. Ubo was such an enjoyable experience, I think what’s coming next is gonna be much better.
Till next time…