The effect of virtual theatres on physical theatres in the UAE

The effect of virtual theatres on physical theatres in the UAE

  • Fatima Al-Jallaf: We must develop the art of theatre to keep pace with the global aspirations towards the next 50

In her description of the impact of virtual theatre on the performing arts sector in the UAE and Dubai, Fatima Al-Jallaf, Manager of the Theatre Section and Acting Director of the Performing Arts Department at the Dubai Culture and Arts Authority (Dubai Culture), noted that the spread of virtual theatre in some countries around the world, in light of the exceptional situation imposed by COVID-19, has not yet permeated in the local scene. Al-Jallaf explained that effect of virtual theatres on the local theatrical movement depends on several factors, most importantly of which the extent to which artists and those in charge of theatre productions are accepting of the idea. This is due to the fact that theatre, in its physical form, is rooted in the relationship between an actor and their audience, an aspect that is missing in virtual theatres.

Al-Jallaf said: “The nature of actual theatre undoubtedly differs from its virtual counterpart. The emotional communication between theatrical members on stage and audiences, and the resulting bond, is what gives physical theatre its distinct charm, enhancing the confidence and interaction of the actors as well as their harmony and focus to deliver their desired messages to audiences. This relationship and emotional and psychological connection are absent from virtual theatres, and that glamour and magic cannot be replaced by technology. However, I believe that translating physical theatre into a virtual space during exceptional circumstances is a positive thing as it guarantees the continuity of the artistic scene in the country through the performing arts.”

Al-Jallaf added: “From my point of view, one of the drivers of the trend towards virtual theatres lies in the need for the local theatre sector to adapt to developments in the country or to global circumstances. I believe there is also a need to spread artistic awareness among society members in general and the theatrical community in particular on the path towards accepting the concept and keeping pace with it.”

In a future outlook, Al-Jallaf indicated that preparing for the next 50 years requires the development of theatrical work to keep pace with the world, whether in terms of content or form through the integration of digitalisation and technology into the physical theatre. She affirms that this would require everyone across various fields of theatrical work to take steps that may be difficult in the beginning but will result in the continuity and quality in production with the right experience and the will to adapt to the new era. She stressed that future generations are heavily dependent on technology and may find it difficult to accept the idea of ​​traditional theatrical productions. Therefore, when presented digitally, innovation must be employed in the theatrical field and surprising elements must be included.