State-of-the-art theatre to push young people to improve creative skills

Oman has long been a focus for performing arts in the Gulf region, and when the late HM Sultan Qaboos completed the state-of-arts Royal Opera House, Muscat in 2011, the face of performance in the capital reached new heights. Other small but perfectly formed auditoria from the Al Bustan Palace to the Ministry of Education in Al Wattayah and the Bosch Centre for Performing Arts in Ghala have provided spaces to encourage drama, music and dance among students and professionals in the Sultanate.
Now, one more has been added to the catalogue with the brand new, state-of-the-art 300-seat ‘Oryx Theatre’ in Madinat al Sultan Qaboos which celebrated its grand opening on Thursday night.
Believing that the performing arts are the soul of a community BSM, with students of over seventy nationalities, raised funds for a building which would enable young people in Oman to develop skills in music, sound and orchestra; chorus and solo recitals; drama and mime; costume and make-up; production and direction; theatre and film and dance performance. Kai Vacher, Principal at the British School Muscat, said, “We love to see students perform and play a part in making something dramatic happen. We can now do this in our own special place —the Oryx Theatre, “Lights, Sound, Action” — giving a once in a lifetime chance for everyone to share the stage with those from different backgrounds, adding to the opportunities available in Oman… to develop their unique talents.”
As if to prove the point, more than a hundred young people were involved in the official opening performance on Thursday in front of an esteemed audience. Invited guests, the British Ambassador Hamish Cowell, Dr Suad bint Mubarak al Fori, Director General of Private Schools, Mrs Siddiqa al Lawatia, Director and Halima al Qasmi and Mayada al Jamiah from International Schools Office all attended the ceremony and show.
Director and Producer, Anna Vacher, chose “PETER PAN, The Musical” by Piers Chater Robinson to best demonstrate the versatility and technical abilities of the new facility, as well as reflect emotions and aspirations of international students. It is based on the novel by J M Barrie, but this interpretation was set in 2083 and used time travel as a universal theme, an Eco-Pirate Ship and the traditional role of Nana the dog was reincarnated as Nanu, a pet robot (Kaitlyn Cotton).
The Oryx Theatre boasts an incredible sound system, enabling the actors to use radio head mics with perfect balance and clarity of speech and singing throughout the show. The off-stage ten-piece band, under the capable direction of Adrian Clifford, sounded frighteningly professional! They were placed on a concealed backstage mezzanine level and projected onto screens at the back of the auditorium using CCTV so that singers and chorus could follow the conductor easily. The Band comprised teachers, adults and students — Sana Tassabehji, trumpet; Elaine SeeToh, keyboard; Pierre Thienpont, bass guitar and Avinash Menon, drums.
The opening whole-cast sequence was brilliantly executed with slick timing and coordination set off by dazzling costumes created by Vedrana Mati. All the solo cast members demonstrated clear diction and sense of the rhythm of speech with an incredibly mature, well-measured delivery. Josepa Gallastegui in the title role was confident and agile with great stage presence and a stunning singing voice. Opposite him with palpable chemistry, Delilah Pery as Wendy proved a natural performer with a lovely voice. Oscar Anderson played a vivacious — if jealous — futuristic Tinkerbelle with impressive energy and spark. There was also a well-synchronised, gymnastic waltz sequence by the Dance Company choreographed by Katie Bamforth, which provided a delightful diversion for Mr (Daryl Nuguid) and Mrs Darling (Cynthia Van Es) to attend.
Act Two shifted to the Pirates’ Neverland, and Adham Abou Elenein made a scary Captain Hook with brilliant delivery in a double-act with his little brother, Omar. The twenty pirates and ten Tiger Folk were decidedly subversive in attitude with their satirical characterisation, only upstaged by an electronic Panto-Croc with flashing eyes and tick, designed by Sandra Rayner.
The Youth Theatre’s vision is to achieve world-class facilities and productions for the Sultanate; this reviewer certainly looks forward to seeing the shape of things to come.