We look at the Fujairah International Monodrama Festival

Over 200 international theatre personalities are attending the Fujairah International Monodrama Festival, which starts tomorrow.

A scene from Antigone by the actor and director Birute Mar from Lithuania. Courtesy Fujairah International Monodrama Festival
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Inner conflict, love and desire to succeed are just a few of the topics to be explored during the Fifth Fujairah International Monodrama Festival, starting tomorrow.

Some 200 personalities from the Arab and international theatre community from countries such as Greece, UK, Lebanon, Tunisia, Switzerland, Sweden and the Gulf states will attend.

Guests include the Egyptian actor Nour El Sherif, the Syrian actor and director Jamal Sulaiman and Emilya Cachapero, from the Theatre Communications Group, the national organisation for the American Theatre.

The event, organised by the Fujairah Culture and Media Authority, continues until January 28, and offers a series of productions featuring just one performer.

The opening ceremony will take place at Fujairah Fort with a theatrical dance show entitled Fujairah.. The World Passes Through Here, written by the playwright, poet and festival chairman Mohammad Saeed Al Dhanhani, and performed by Ornina Theatrical Dance Group.

This year will also see the first Fujairah Award for Excellence in Theatre presented to the award-winning British theatre director Peter Brook during opening night.

"We made the award international to include masters of contemporary theatre from all over the world. The award is a recognition of their lifelong devotion to theatre and the mark they left on stage by acting, writing, or directing," said Al Dhanhani.

The mixture of backgrounds makes Fujairah a meeting point for art, culture and intellect and a forum for discussion, he said. The festival is held every two years since launching in 2003.

"It's an exceptional place to hold a ceremony. As you go up to the fort's roof and look at the sea and the ships sailing in its waters, you realise Fujairah is indeed an important link between East and West," said Al Dhanhani.

International artists will get the chance to explore the Emirates and witness the "cultural, artistic and architectural development and our tourism and historic landmarks".

"Regarding writers, artists and intellectuals from the UAE, this elite group of artists coming to the UAE will benefit them and give them a great chance to exchange experiences and discuss human issues and of mutual interest in art and culture," said Al Dhanhani.

One such local artist is Jamal Matar, a television personality, writer and director of theatre, whose play Fools Rush In will be performed in cooperation with the Dubai-based Al Ahli Theatre Group. It will be his first time participating.

The story, in Arabic, follows the journey of a singer driven by a hunger for success.

"Theatre is an expression of freedom," said Matar, a native of Dubai. "During the play, the singer visits a surgeon asking for an operation to reprogramme his style of singing because people stopped listening to his songs. He becomes successful but the audience will witness how things changed at the expense of his inner self."

The play will be held on Saturday at the Monodrama House Theatre at 8pm.

"The UAE is playing a vital role in the regional progression of theatre. This festival, focused on monodrama, is an opportunity to push yourself and be different," said Matar.

Among the chosen international acts is the Russian Theatre Group's Confessions of the Mask, by the Russian director Ilja Gordon, based on the book by the Japanese writer Yukio Mishima, on January 26 at the Dibba Society Theatre, 6pm. It is the story of a young man struggling to be "normal". He tells of his childhood, war, love and fear of death.

"It's a spectacular show. Unlike the many monodramas I've seen, we have a lot of picturesque scenes," said Germany-based Gordon. "Even if you don't understand Russian, you will enjoy the performance and understand a lot on a non-verbal level."

It will be his first visit to the UAE, during which he plans also to look at opportunities to invite acts to Berlin, as well as tour the area.

"Monodrama is a very special art. It's a great challenge for the actor to be face to face with the audience for a long time," he said. "Such work can only be done by a truly brilliant actor. We have one! Ande Moshoi."

Last year, the festival won the "Emirati Personality of the Year Award" during the 7th Dubai Cultural Magazine Awards.

"The UAE is the source of our pride and development and inspiration of our ideas," said Al Dhanhani of the award and invites all to attend the festival.

"I say: welcome to Fujairah. I hope everyone realises the doors of our theatres are, like our hearts, open for everyone and we're honoured to have anyone sharing their opinions, criticism, and analysis with us," he said, adding the idea born in Fujairah has been "echoed all over the world".

Various sessions and a symposium on "Monodrama: Terminology and Modernity" will also be held as will the Fujairah International Playwriting Competition.

For more information, visit www.fimf.ae