DUBAI: Theatergoers in Diriyah are being treated to a spectacular celebration of Saudi Arabian culture thanks to a new production staged by the Ministry of Culture and Las Vegas-based theater show design company Dragone.
Created in partnership with Dragone, “Terhal” features acrobatics, stunts, aerial performances and dazzling special effects alongside traditional Saudi art and dance.
The show opened on Thursday and runs until March 19.
Dragone’s senior creative director and co-director of the show Filippo Ferraresi said the company got a call from the MOC in April asking if it could stage a “breathtaking show” in the Kingdom. The team immediately started researching Saudi culture.
“Wherever we go, we want to learn about the local culture and dig deep into it,” Ferraresi told Arab News.
“We started actively writing the show in June and it took us about two months and a half to come up with a concept, an idea, a stage design and a story.”
With the idea in place, the team then cast more than 60 Saudi artists and 60 international performers to lead audiences on an adventure that explores the role the Kingdom’s heritage and people play in shaping the future.
The company began building a new theater for the show in August.
“This is not a show that we brought to Saudi. We built a theater. We designed every little detail about this show,” Ferraresi said.
“I believe that this is the fastest show to ever be built, including the building of a theater.”
Even before the call from the MOC, Dragone was “waiting to jump” into the Saudi market, Ferraresi said.
“Saudi is an ascendant star. Saudi is the next protagonist of the scene. It is the country that is investing more in the entertainment field. What Saudi wants is to experience, to see and to learn. People in Saudi are eager to enjoy this experience,” he said.
“Terhal” tells the story of Riyadh student Saad as he travels across time and place. He encounters friends, danger and the intensity of nature, until he finally discovers that the key to the future lies in his country’s heritage.
Ferraresi said that when preparing for the show, the team always had a Saudi audience in mind.
“Each country has a different kind of audience. So, despite theater being universal, what works in Singapore is different than what works in Amsterdam. So, as creators, we have to know and consider the universality of the culture, but also its differences,” he said.
He said his favorite thing about the production was the “harmonic” blend of local and international talent from more than 20 different countries.
He also recalled a special moment with the troupe of 25 traditional dancers, known as shabab.
“I remember the first time they came, it was one of the very special moments in the life of a creator because … we immediately understood each other despite the differences.
“I have to say that with the shabab I had the most important time of creation because these guys weren’t used to a show like this. They came as traditional dancers, now they are artists,” he said.
“Our hope as creators is that the audience see in ‘Terhal’ all the different aspects of the culture. I hope that they enjoy the show because they can recognize themselves.
Ahead of the opening night, Fawzi Kabbara, Lebanon’s ambassador to Saudi Arabia, told Arab News that “Terhal” was “not just a captivating piece of theater, but a theatrical celebration of the beauty and talents contemporary Saudi Arabia shares with audiences for the first time ever.”
“Terhal” is the first Dragone creation to open since the death of the company’s founder and artistic director Franco Dragone. He was involved in the early stages of the show’s development and the team are keen to ensure it honors his legacy.