Stars of the stage scene
The theatre scene here in Dubai continues to grow at a significant speed, and while it can’t be compared to London’s West End, or Broadway in New York, fans of performance have plenty of options when it comes to watching actors tread the boards in the city.
There are venues right across Dubai in which you can watch high-quality shows, from small productions to those on a much larger scale.
Dubai Opera, a 2,000-capacity venue in Downtown Dubai, hosts big international shows, while the city’s comedy scene has never been in ruder health, with many of the industry’s biggest names flocking to the UAE.
If you’re a fan of international theatre living here in Dubai, you needn’t worry, because more than ever before there are opportunities to watch some of the biggest shows live in the city. Opened in the summer of 2016, Dubai Opera boasts a 2,000-capacity and is a definitive international destination for performing arts and world-class entertainment productions. More than anywhere else in Dubai, it plays host to some of the biggest international theatre productions. Regardless of your personal preferences, the variety in terms of the shows Dubai Opera hosts ensures you are very likely to find something to suit your tastes.
Phantom of the Opera, the world’s most popular musical, was booked to make its Dubai debut during 2019 and due to the huge numbers wishing to secure tickets to the Andrew Lloyd Webber production, an extra week’s worth of shows were added. Before that the iconic show, Much Ado About Nothing, will take to the stage and that will be followed later in the year by The Nutcracker, which will be brought to life by the St-Petersburg Tchaikovsky Ballet Theatre with exquisite dancing, beautiful sets and Tchaikovsky’s timeless score performed by a live orchestra.
Theatre-lovers in Dubai have already had the chance to watch the likes of Othello, a Shakespeare production, as well as feel-good musical versions of both Ghost and Footloose this year, so surely the fact some of the most popular global shows can now be watched right here in the city only serves to enhance its reputation as a cultural hotspot?
Of course, there is more to the city than just Dubai Opera when it comes to watching the biggest international performances. Featuring a breathtaking fusion of immersive artistic performances, imagery and technology, La Perle became Dubai’s first permanent show in 2017 and has proved hugely popular. The show, which takes place inside a stunning venue at Al Habtoor City, was created and produced by world renowned artistic director, Franco Dragone, who is internationally recognised for having reinvented the genre of theatre and changing the face of live entertainment in Las Vegas. This fact alone only serves to strengthen the notion that Dubai now has the ability to recruit not just the biggest shows, but the most prominent figures in the field, which can only be a good sign.
When it comes to the local theatre scene in Dubai, the majority of the action centres around Alserkal Avenue, which is the performance hub in the city and plays host to venues such as The Junction, The Fridge, The Flip Side and Sima Performing Arts.
While each location hosts a wide range of events on a regular basis, The Junction and The Fridge are the two most popular. The Junction opened in November 2015 and having hosted over 30 events in less than a year, it quickly established itself as a go-to spot for the growing performing arts community in Dubai. As well as theatrical productions, you can also watch stand-up comedy, dance performances and even magic shows at the venue, which only goes to emphasise the vast array of talent here in Dubai.
A Behanding in Spokane, a Martin McDonagh play about how a man came to lose his hand, was running at The Junction for three nights in June, and that was preceded by Kafka’s Ape, an award-winning show examining a primate’s struggle to overcome the confines of captivity. This isn’t just a rarity. Top-quality shows featuring talented actors and actresses take place consistently throughout the year at The Junction, and there’s a lot more to the venue than simply putting on productions. It also holds auditions for shows, such as Neil Simon’s ‘Last of the Red Hot Lovers,’ providing local talent with an opportunity to showcase their acting prowess, as well as hosting its own yearly awards ceremony.
The Fridge, in operation since 2007, plays a pivotal role in the performing arts industry across the city by developing, managing and promoting over 3,000 productions on a yearly basis, including some of the UAE’s most significant events. The Fridge regularly updates its extensive list of talented performers and has the ability to create original shows for venues, such as Dubai Opera, festivals and nightclubs, as well as staging its own productions during the year.
Warehouse Four is a stylish space in Al Quoz that can be used for a wide range of events, including film productions and fashion shows, and its clients include huge global brands such as adidas, Mercedes-Benz and Yves Saint Laurent. Guy Pratt, an English musician/comedian, performed his one-man comedy show, The Sideman, at the venue, while Yves Saint Laurent used it for the launch of a new product. UAE gamers also descended on Warehouse Four for the launch of Call Of Duty.
Away from Alserkal Avenue, Madinat Theatre, located at Souk Madinat Jumeirah, is another popular performance venue. The first theatre to be built in the city, it has the ability to hold over 400 people and plays host to theatre productions, ballets and musicals, as well as being a popular destination for children’s shows.
If you fancy something a little out of the ordinary, why not watch a show aboard the world’s most famous cruise ship? This is Dubai, after all, where nothing seems too far-fetched, right?
The QE2 is currently anchored in Port Rashid and, as well as a hotel and restaurants, you will also find its very own performance venue - Theatre By QE2 – on-board which has hosted shows such as Motown, as well as performances by both Queen and ABBA tribute acts.
It would be fair to say the comedy scene in Dubai right now is flourishing as a host of the industy’s biggest names bring their talents to the city. The Laughter Factory is one of the longest-running comedy clubs in the world. Over two decades its put on shows every month across the UAE, keeping prices and venues accessible, as well as bringing over the likes of Russell Peters, Frankie Boyle and Dara Ò Briain before they were famous.They started the scene - and they’re still here. Quite frankly, the demand for big-name comedians to perform in Dubai has never been higher.
Canadian Russell Peters played the first gig at City Walk’s redeveloped Coca-Cola Arena, which boasts a 17,000 capacity, at the start of June 2019. Peters, though, was simply adding his name to a long list of comic talents to play live here, following in the footsteps of the likes of Michael McIntyre, Al Murray, Jason Byrne and Alan Davies.
The opening of the Coca-Cola Arena provides an obvious location for the biggest names to perform when here in Dubai, but there is certainly no shortage of other options in terms of venues. The events involving McIntyre, Murray and Davies all took place at Dubai Opera, no surprise given the fact it was the venue with the largest capacity prior to the opening of the Coca-Cola Arena, while Byrne played at a much smaller venue, McGettigan’s, an Irish bar in Jumeirah Lake Towers. Manford, meanwhile, will be performing at Movenpick Hotel JBR, emphasising the fact there are a whole host of different destinations in which you can watch live performances across the city.
Those looking for a more local feel to their comedy are advised to head down to venues such as Courtyard Playhouse, Warehouse Four and Centrepoint Theatre, in order to watch talented, up-and-coming performers here in Dubai.
Dubomedy, meanwhile, uses comedy as a tool to bring people of diverse cultural, monetary and religious backgrounds together in the name of humour. From the biggest productions to one-man shows, stars of the stage to kings of comedy, Dubai has your needs catered for.
The performance industry, in truth, couldn’t be in better shape. The biggest shows and the biggest names are coming here regularly, while the local scene, packed with emerging talent, continues to evolve at a fast pace.