Having survived Christmas and five previous with not a panto or a musical or a thing, I nearly jumped clean off my seat I saw that there was a musical coming to Doha. Cats.
What Cats was about, where it was being held or the price of the tickets, didn’t interest me, I just wanted to bring the kids to see a bit of ‘oh no he didn’t, oh yes he did’. For those who don’t know, I can now enlighten that the musical Cats is about Cats, (I had hoped it was a metaphor) and as it says on the leaflet, it’s a musical, a musical with NO dialogue so for the slow processors, ahem ahem, not I course, it can be difficult to follow, difficult to identify the goodie from the baddie and difficult to spot the laughs, really difficult, lets face it, Andrew Lloyd Weber ain’t famous for the onstage gags or witty double entendre’s. However, we were desperate for entertainment so we paid the forty euro for the cheapest seats in the house, dickied ourselves up and took off to the Qatar National Convention Centre to see Cats.
Wistfully I recalled the times I brought the kids to pantos in the past, luminous wands that are broken by the interval, reams of pink, blue and green raffle tickets when the winning tickets was a salmon coloured ticket. Chocolate, popcorn, crisps, fizzy chewy bars all strewn on the floor by the time we leave and the token, ‘pick up after yourselves’ as we all lift one flimsy piece of paper and cart it to the bin, all the time pretending we’re not leaving chaos on the floor. The queue for face painting, the two euro program, slushies and the main character making an appearance at the interval to get the kids doubly excited, all the things that make the outings a roaring success.
Well we needn’t have worried about the sugar intake on the night, as water was the only refreshment allowed into the multi million dollar, state of the theatre in the Qatar National Convention Centre, since 2011, the first of its kind being built to gold certification standard of the U.S. Green Building Council’s Leadership in Energy and Environment Design. The building which boasts, 3,500 sq.m. of solar panels, a 4,000 seat theatre, also a 2,300 seat theatre, three auditoria, 52 meeting rooms and 40,000 of exhibition space, certainly met and exceeded any architectural or environmental sustainability, eco friendly concerns we might have but one word sprung to mind, underutilized. For a five year old, it was nothing but a gross disappointment, as there were no slushies, no face painting and no tacky battery operated illuminous lightsaber, disappointing.
Nevertheless, we made ourselves as comfortable as possible in the pristine beige leather seating and prepared to be awed by the show. Impressive Choreography, harmonies to die for but the crowd spoke volumes. The amazing theatre was two thirds empty, for the fourth-longest-running show in Broadway history. The London production ran for over twenty years and the Broadway one for eighteen years, and here they were in Doha, after coming all the way from Broadway and on the opening night, the house was over half empty, where was everyone? The Cheesecake Factory in the new Mall of Qatar, that’s where they were, because you can build the fanciest theatre you like, bring the best shows on earth, but you cannot generate an interest in culture where there is none. (Apart of course from the wannabe cultured expats with the disposable cash and supposed interest who will attend any old cock fight in an attempt to feign culture).
Cork Opera House built in 1855, The Everyman Theatre opened in 1897, the Abbey Theatre in Dublin, 1904, The Gaiety, 1871, An Taibhdhearc, Galway, 1928, and scores mores around the country that are hosting shows week after week, community centres, school halls and back rooms, packing seats without the 3,500 of solar panels but what they do have is atmosphere, intimacy, wine at the interval, a program for Eu. 2 and most of all at every kids shows an illuminous waving thingy that makes every show a hit.