Hamlet, three chimps and an accountant

Dubai Drama Group's second last production of the year runs for three nights.

Dubai, 10th May 2011.  The Dubai Drama Group during their dress rehearsal for The 15 minute Hamlet play.  (Jeffrey E Biteng / The National)
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DUBAI // The Shakespeare theme was deliberate, but Hamlet was a fluke.

For the first time in its more than 25 years, the Dubai Drama Group will this weekend tackle three short plays instead of one with Omelet: An evening of Scrambled Shakespeare.

"We think it's very good for the audience, because it gives them a lot of variety," said Gordon Torbet, a community group member and one of the three directors. "We decided we wanted to do something with a Shakespearean theme and it just so happened that the three plays we chose had links to Hamlet."

The turn to brevity was inspired by an earlier project called New Developments, where the group encouraged writers to pen short plays.

The first play is Tom Stoppard's 15-Minute Hamlet. In it, the British playwright distils the tragedy's memorable scenes down into 13 minutes of comedy.

Words, Words, Words, by the American playwright David Ives, focuses on three chimps - dubbed Kafka, Milton and Swift - who have been captured and held by a scientist who forces them to recreate Hamlet.

The piece is built on the "infinite monkey theorem", which hypothesises that if a monkey is left to tap at a keyboard at random it would eventually produce a great literary work.

Nina Hein, a professor of film production at the American University of Dubai and a member of the group for the past three years, said she did a lot of research before directing the piece.

"The conversations I have had with my actors, during rehearsals, have been different to the norm," she said. "Instead of asking them what they are feeling, I have had to ask them what they need to do, in their performance, to show the audience they are not people."

Brooke Butterworth, an American housewife from Dubai, will take to the stage for the last play of the show, An Actor's Nightmare. Written by the actor and playwright, Christopher Durang, the comedy follows an accountant who finds himself catapulted into the world of theatre when he is mistaken for an actor's understudy.

"The plays within themselves have integrity as plays," Mrs Butterworth said. "We're not editing anything down, and we're not doing Cliff Notes versions of plays. We certainly wouldn't ever consider it necessary to shorten or dumb things down."

Mr Torbet, who works as a series producer for Talk About Media in Dubai, directs.

"It is a very ambiguous play," Mr Torbet said. "Basically, what you have is this guy who isn't even an actor, but who finds himself being asked to perform in various different plays that he has no clue about. There is a comedy to his state of panic and loss."

This weekend marks the fourth production in a successful season that will close for the year with a fifth production next month.

"The amateur theatre community here is growing," said Mr Torbet. "It is vital that we help to feed each other just to help theatre in general grow both here and in the UAE."

Omelet: An evening of Scrambled Shakespeare will take place from tonight to May 14 at thejamjar in Dubai. Each performance will begin at 7pm. Entry is free.