It’s like the fluidity of Dubai’s skyline – the dynamics of the city’s residents. Expats ferry their biases all the way to the emirate from across the globe, and the UAE gently disabuses them of their notions. The play JLT, or Just Like That, which runs at The Junction from April 18-20, is a look at this process of dismissal.
On New Year’s Eve, the denizens of a particular building in JLT find themselves armed with judgements and mauled by interactions with each other – inevitably, the rules of engagement are re-written and understanding dawns. “We live in a very unique time. People are looking for more reasons to divide rather than unite, there is this air of insecurity due to the global macro-economic environment, and times/trends are changing at a phenomenal pace making it hard for many to keep up. In a time like this there needs to be something which helps calm people down, put things into perspective, and just bring them closer together. JLT aims to deliver change via comedy,” says Asad Raza Khan, actor, co-writer and producer.
The cast is a mesh of nationalities- an Emirati writer, a British businessman, a European entrepreneur, a Lebanese airhostess, a south-Indian security guard, and an Indian or Pakistani Investment Banker – who live on the same floor. “What unfolds is a clash of perspectives, culture, beliefs, and way of life! Audiences will have a chance to laugh, cry, be shocked, and just enjoy the amazing story of modern Dubai,” he adds.
Priyanka Johri, who has directed this iteration of the play – it debuted last year and had a rerun due to popular demand – says: “It’s still set on New Year’s Eve, [but] that’s the only thing that’s similar to the last time this show was staged. Everything about the show is different. We have three new actors that join our cast. The foundation of the story of course is the same but it has been updated to current times. I can safely say that even for someone watching the show again, it will feel like a completely different performance!”
The full-length story set in Modern Dubai, the players insist, stokes the embers of cultural mores only to rewrite them. “It offers you all the local flavour and puts your life on stage,” explains Raza Khan. “Also, as the show delivers a message of peace and coming together, this is our contribution to the Year of Tolerance being celebrated in UAE this year.”
The seeds for the plot were found during a workshop – and germinated scene by scene as rehearsals progressed. “This [project] showed how different people can bring together such great perspectives to make a final product. Each actor added to the character and made it their own. Some of the best moments of the run last time were a result of the inputs of the actors during the process. [The] key thing I learnt was - everyone has great perspectives no matter how different they are to your own - so one should listen and absorb, and there is no other craft like acting which is as inclusive, dynamic, creative, and provocative,” says Raza Khan.
Amid spires of steel and glass live people with hearts of gold; it’s just like the skyline, you need to recalbirate things sometimes.
Don’t miss it!
Tickets to Just Like That, which runs at The Junction Theatre in Al Serkal Avenue on April 18-20 at 7.30pm with an additional 3pm show on April 20, start at Dh80.