Students of American University Dubai during a dress rehearsal for their play - Strangers on a Train Image Credit: Xpress / Karen Dias

 DUBAI:  Young and raring to go, a bunch of students, some of them even working professionals, shared a common passion for theatre.

They were part of student or other theatre groups in the UAE, but they all felt something lacking: the freedom of expression.

As they got talking about it in September last year, it dawned on them that they might as well form their own amateur theatre group.

By October, they gave shape to the idea with the launch of Backstage. By December, they staged their first play. And today, six months down the line, they are already into their fifth production.

All set for the upcoming play, Strangers on the Train, this weekend, Gautam Goenka, Backstage President and Director, knows there is no looking back.

A senior recruiter by day and theatre enthusiast by night, Goenka said the group has grown phenomenally from 20 to 200 members over the past few months. "Aged between nine and 60, they come from different walks of life and, depending on who is free or active, take part in the productions," he said.

Teeming with ideas, members thrash them out when they meet at least three to four evenings during a week in one of their homes.

Goenka said Backstage is a not-for-profit group — it charges a nominal ticket fee of Dh30 or Dh15 for its plays, to cover costs. "The aim is to showcase theatre talent and raise the profile of performing arts in the UAE," he said.

Going over the group's body of work so far, Goenka said the first production was a one-act play called Art, staged at Jam Jar gallery in Dubai last December.

This was followed by supporting backstage work for Gagan Mudgal's New Visit Visa staged at the Emirates International School in February/March and two one-act plays called Seduction and The Valiant at the Shelter in April.

The latest production Strangers on the Train by Craig Warner begins with a scene where an architect, Guy Haines, meets Charles Bruno, an alcoholic, on a train from New York to Texas.

As they get talking, they realise that they are better off without some people in their lives. So Bruno strikes a deal where he says he will do away with Haines' wife, and Haines in return should help him get rid of his father.

Haines takes it as a joke until he finds his wife is actually murdered by Bruno. Worse, Bruno stalks him to get his side of the bargain.

So does Haines oblige? Watch the full play on May 28 and 29 at the American University Dubai.

Doors open at 7pm. For tickets, call 050-6545958 or write to:backstage.dubai@gmail.com