It's nerve-racking standing in front of strangers and performing on demand. But 40 hopefuls took a deep breath and did just that at the Dubai Community Theatre and Arts Centre (Ductac) recently.

Open auditions were held for the first time in the emirate by the English theatre company Popular Productions to uncover local talent for future stage shows in the UAE.

Producers Lucy Blakeman and John Payton - responsible for bringing Look Back in Anger, Educating Rita and Teechers to Dubai - spent more than six hours watching people sing, act and dance for them at Ductac's Kilchand Studio.

Blakeman said the candidates, aged from 8 to 42, revealed a great deal of talent.

"It's been brilliant and there were probably five or six people who we would cast as leads in our shows," she said. "All the others were really, really good and I think we could use pretty much everyone we saw today."


Among the many waiting for their number to be called was 12-year-old Nat Guney, from Al Safa. The Emirates International School pupil said his ambition is to be a heart surgeon but, if that fails, acting is his back-up plan.
"We stayed next to George Clooney's villa in Lake Como, in Italy, three years ago and that inspired me to do acting. It was pretty big and it seemed so glamorous," he said.

During the audition, the youngster used just a chair for a prop as he convincingly delivered an edgy monologue about a boy's feelings on the day his father died.

Among those who found out about the trials at the last minute was Chloé Al Ali who dashed from shopping in the Mall of the Emirates to have a go at her first audition.

The 25-year-old, from England, sang a soulful a cappella version of Toni Braxton's How Could an Angel Break My Heart? before demonstrating impressive jazz technique with a rendition of Sandman.


Afterwards she admitted: "I was really nervous for the first one but I had just found out about it five minutes ago. My friend called me and said, 'There's an audition, you should go', so I just came."

One of the most outstanding candidates I saw was Natasha Kemball, 26, also from England. The 26-year-old sang an expressive I Could Have Danced All Night before a heartfelt I Don't Know How to Love Him. She then acted an energetic passage as Hermia in Shakespeare's A Midsummer Night's Dream.

The stage actress, who has been taking a career break in Dubai, said: "I was a bit nervous because I haven't been performing for quite a while. Normally it would have been just another audition. But I felt I needed a break from acting so that I would really appreciate it when I came back to it."

Taylor Asgard
Age: 10.
Position: Dubai American Academy student.
Audition piece: Monologue of a character called Betty.

"My monologue is about a girl named Betty who is telling her dad how she feels now that her parents are divorced. I picked it because it was emotional and challenging and I think it shows what I am capable of. I have auditioned for school productions before but this is the first time for professional theatre."

Tori Asgard
Age: 8.
Position: Dubai American Academy student.
Audition piece: Monologue of a character called Molly.

"The character I am playing is called Molly and she is moaning about her piano lessons. She is upset because her piano lessons are really hard and her teacher is mean. I chose it because I am really good at being upset, especially because I played the orphan in my school's production of Annie."

Frank Sanchez
Age: 26.
Position: Health club membership consultant.
Audition piece: Ol' Man River from Show Boat.
"The song is dramatic and has a wide range which allows you to put more emotion into it. Theatre is my first love. I performed back in the Philippines but it has been a year since I last did anything like this so I'm a bit nervous. I only found out about this audition this morning - my friend called and told me so I just grabbed my stuff and came."

Rei Ohashi
Age: 14.
Position: Jumeirah College student.
Audition piece: Extract from Jane Eyre by Charlotte Brontë.
"I am going to act a dramatic piece from Jane Eyre. Jane is locked up in a room where her uncle died and she sees a light moving which she thinks is a ghost. At the beginning she shouts: 'Let me out!' - I really like shouting. It is very encouraging to be able to audition here and I want to do it for the experience, even if I don't get the part."

What next?
Popular Productions will now enter the participants' details into their casting database. All candidates will be contacted, considered for future shows and kept informed of casting opportunities.

Brian Scipione
Position: Diabetic neuropathy clinic manager.
Audition piece: Monologue from Romeo and Juliet by William Shakespeare.

"I joined the Dubai Drama Group and played the Friar in Romeo and Juliet. I realised how much I missed it after seven years away from the stage. The cultural scene is burgeoning here but it needs more small theatres. Independent and community theatre, music and poetry are lacking in opportunity here, not talent."