A Weekend of Two Halves | UAE

Without a song and dance, what are we?Abba

It’s that time of year where the weather is good-ish (if you discount the persistent fog), well to be honest it’s actually slightly chilly to us acclimatised folk (socks and cardigans are out and everything) and that means it’s non-stop events here in UAE. We have been literally spoilt for choice from International Yacht races, world-class tennis, top-class drag racing, camel festivals, polo and West End Theatre productions to name a few recent events and this weekend coming some the world’s professional golfers will be in action at the annual HSBC Championships. It’s a juggling act to fit everything in (insert first world problem hashtag here) but you have to maximise what’s on offer during the ‘good’ weather months (i.e. those without intense stifling humidity and full blast air con).


The weekend before last was full on fun and games with a day at the semi-finals of the Mubadala World Tennis Championships followed by a sing-a-long West End style at the smash hit musical Mamma Mia in Dubai.


As well as writing this blog, I also write a tennis blog for the UK so a visit to the Tennis Championships was a double whammy as far as blogging was concerned. One of the clubs alumni from back in my hometown kindly got us some excellent tickets to see British Number One Andy Murray versus Rafael Nadal and World Number One Novak Djokovic take on current Australian Open champion Stanislas Wawrinka. The three-day exhibition event, that saw six of the world’s top players known as the ‘Super 6’ competing, also acts as the unofficial season opener before the players headed down under for the first Grand Slam of the season, the Australian Open which starts on Monday.


Dispelling his miserable media image Murray exited the players lounge grinning from ear-to-ear before taking to the practice courts and hitting with local tennis sensation sixteen-year-old Syrian Kareem Allaf. After a friendly ball rolling challenge with his team (loser carries all the kit bags), Murray took centre stage in the main arena which was adorned with Scottish flags and loads of fans.


Murray defeated Nadal in a spectacular display of tennis and much to the delight of the mostly expat crowd. Next up was Djokovic versus Wawrinka who also put on a fine display of tennis and saw the Serbian cruise into the final. Unfortunately for those who purchased tickets for the final on the last day of the event, Djokovic was struck down with a virus which saw Murray lift the trophy without a single stroke hit, great for British tennis supporters but disappointing for the fans in the stadium.


(From top L to R) Murray, Nadal, Wawrinka and Djokovic

Alongside the action on the practice courts and main arena there were many opportunities for tennis fans to meet their idols in the Tennis Village. There were autograph and meet and greet sessions, on-courts clinics as well as tennis veterans floating about and plenty of competitions too. A great event to kick off the New Year in the capital and one that I thoroughly enjoyed. Read more about the tennis nitty and gritty from my tennis blog post here.


Champion Murray with this years MWTC trophy (source:www.BBCsport/Getty Images)

From one extreme to another, I left the quiet of the tennis court to the non-stop singing and dancing the following day on a girls road trip to Dubai to see Swedish supergroup Abba’s discography in the award-winning Mamma Mia show. The International Tour of the musical stopped off in the emirate for a nine-day run and it was a must do with the lack of regular theatre here. Both my friend and I had seen the original musical in London but it was a first for the teenager (aka the Drama Queen who loves the film and was actually very excited) who knows all the songs word-for-word (trust me ALL the words!).


IMG_0388But first things first, lets just talk about the pre-theatre lunch which was at Pizza Express. Now this may seem trivial to all you folk that have it on your doorstep but over here in the desert it’s only available in Dubai so it’s always a joy to us lovers of a pizza to partake in a little taste of blighty (sad but true I miss Pizza Express).


Yep, it’s a photo of my pizza!

I have to admit I was unsure that the multi purpose venue that is the Dubai World Trade Centre (DWTC), would have the same ambience and acoustics (having been there for comedy shows) as a grand old West End theatre. Even though it was a cavernous space it was surprisingly good and better sound than expected especially in the second half after a cheeky self upgrade to better seats!


I think it’s safe to say that we all know Mamma Mia is a tongue-in cheek romantic comedy filled with twenty-two of Abba’s syrupy pop tunes, so cheesy it’s amazing! Let’s face it most people can sing along to an Abba tune or two and have seen Meryl Streep and co crooning their way through the hits on a Greek island in the movie, even if they won’t admit it. We all loved it and I would say it was just as good as the first time I saw it London and it seems people worldwide agree as the acclaimed show boasts that an incredible fifty-four million theatre goers have seen performances in four hundred major cities.


A Greek Island Taverna took centre stage at the DWTC for Mamma Mia


Niamh Perry (centre) played Sophie Sheridan (source:www.whatson.ae)

Taking the lead role in this touring production was Niamh Perry (from the Andrew Lloyd Webber TV show “I’II Do Anything’ for those who remember watching it). The whole cast were talented singers and dancers and there was lots of comedic moments that made the audience ‘laugh out loud’. Natalie Langston who played the Donna Sheriden character in our performance was the shinning star with a spine tingling awesome and incredibly powerful voice. So I say ‘Thank you for the Music‘ it was a feel good show that left us feeling happy from start to finish.


Super cheesy but amazing all the same, Mamma Mia International touring cast put on an excellent show (source:www.whatson.ae)

I think we’ve established from this post like many before that a) we need more theatre in the UAE (especially Abu Dhabi for selfish reasons) as there are plenty of theatre lovers and loads of amazing theatres sitting empty and b) Pizza Express needs to open a restaurant in the capital! Please, please, please myself and the teenager would be most grateful on both counts 😉

Unless otherwise stated, all photos on this page © Jo Brett 2014/2015. All rights reserved.

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