The Phoenix rising

A musical epic, The Return of the Phoenix, has been enchanting theatre-goers during the Eid break.

DUBAI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES – Oct 2: Rifaat Tarabay one of the artist getting ready before the play ‘Return of the Phoneix’ at Airport Expo in Dubai. (Pawan Singh / The National)
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DUBAI // A musical epic has been enchanting theatre-goers during the Eid break. The Return of the Phoenix, which ends its run at Airport Expo Dubai tonight, is the latest production from the Rahbani family, the Lebanese theatre dynasty who brought their extravagant production of Xenobia: Queen of the Desert to Dubai last year. Set in 1370 BC, The Return of the Phoenix tells the story of rival kingdoms warring for control of the city of Byblos in Lebanon, which is believed to be the oldest continually inhabited city in the world.

The director, Marwan Rahbani, said the tale addresses universal themes of political power, love, betrayal and sacrifice, set against the backdrop of war. "History is a cycle," he said. "The costumes change but the emotions and values remain the same throughout history. "Our productions always deal with God, the land and the human being. "We are so proud of the history of this region, and we hope that if the current generation pays attention to history, it can perhaps avoid making some of the mistakes of the past."

The play had a successful run staged outdoors in Byblos, and although the set was scaled down for the indoor performance in Dubai, The Return of the Phoenix remains a huge show, with 80 actors and more than 500 costumes. Despite the huge scale of the production, Mr Rahbani said there was far more pressure on time and resources in the Middle East than elsewhere. "We do not have the luxury of three or four years that it takes to bring a show to Broadway or to the West End in London," he said. "Always there is just six or seven months from starting to write the script and the music to the opening night. We thrive on pressure."