Narratives of the Place is an acrobatic interpretation of Sharjah’s history that is hard to imagine being performed anywhere besides Al Majaz Amphitheatre.
The theatrical show, organised by the Sharjah Government Media Bureau, premiered on January 25 to a select audience, which included Sheikh Sultan bin Ahmed Al Qasimi, Deputy Ruler of Sharjah and chairman of the Sharjah Media Council.
Narratives of the Place, or Sard el Makan, blends poetry, dance and song, as well as elaborate choreography to portray key moments from the emirate’s past.
The open-air venue in Al Majaz, in full view of Sharjah’s skyline over the Buhaira Corniche, sets the historical context of the performance against the emirate as it stands today. Presented anywhere else and the show would have been a mere visual treat. It could have lacked in originality and storytelling finesse, instead relying on gymnastic flair to keep the audience engaged, but at Al Majaz Amphitheatre the performance has an edge, becoming an homage to the surrounding scene.
The performance opens at a crucial chapter in Sharjah’s history: the 17th and 18th centuries, as the Qawasims are fighting to withstand European attacks.
Dancers holding Dutch and Portuguese flags take the stage with thunderous movements timed to the rhythm of fevered war drums. The belligerent choreography, complemented by a video backdrop of invading fleets on the open sea, depicts the resistance of the local population in style. After an epic battle of stomps, tumbles and gymnastic routines, the scene culminates in the triumph of the Qawasim against the onslaught.
Each of the performance’s 11 scenes is a nod to specific moments in Sharjah’s history or a symbolic interpretation of a quality the emirate is known for.
In one scene, a woman in a traditional Emirati embroidered dress takes to the stage against a video backdrop of a rising sun, a reference to the etymological roots of the word “Sharjah”, which is derived from "rising sun", and sings of the emirate’s past as well as its dedication to preserving culture and heritage.
The song is an anthemic tribute to Sharjah’s past, and repeats once more at the tail end of the performance.
The region’s pearl-diving traditions are then celebrated in a scene that brings together more than a dozen acrobats. The multimedia aspect of the performance transforms the stage into a fantastical nautical adventure. Underwater videos are projected as a backdrop to aerialists as they spiral down and move in orbit of each other in search of pearls.
The music reaches a crescendo as pearls appear on the scene, signifying the bounty of the sea as well as the impact it has had on the emirate’s development journey.
Narratives of the Place then depicts a time when the Ruler of Sharjah, as a 12-year-old, mortgages the golden dagger his father had given to him to buy books. The story is presented as a seminal point in Sheikh Dr Sultan’s life, depicting the foundations of his drive to make Sharjah a cultural hub in the region.
Scenes in Narratives of the Place blend somewhat seamlessly with one another, going from acrobatic pearl-diving adventures to musical performances and poetry recitations.
In one scene, artists build a gigantic block sculpture, on which the Sharjah Mosque is projected. It is the largest in the city, and since opening in 2019, has become one of the most recognisable in the emirate.
The show concludes with performances that illustrate Sharjah's journey to becoming a globally attractive destination to live and work. A plane full of tourists that land on stage also depict its meteoric rise and appeal as a top tourist destination, and the scene concludes with a memorable acrobatic finale.
A picture mosaic made up of Sharjah’s citizens, residents and visitors appears in the shape of the number ‘50’ and marks the conclusion of the show in a celebration of the anniversary of Sheikh Dr Sultan’s rule.