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Gala Final winners announced for Short+Sweet Dubai 2014


A searing family drama set in Kentucky and a comic re-telling of Shakespeare’s Romeo & Juliet claimed the major awards at a sold out Red Carpet Gala Final of Short+Sweet Dubai at DUCTAC in the Mall of the Emirates on Saturday night.

Heart in the ground by US playwright Douglas Hill and brilliantly performed by Sally Greenland and Oliver Marriott, took out the Judge’s Choice as the Best Overall Production of the Festival.

Set in a crumbling Kentucky farmhouse, the gritty drama follows a young couple who find themselves dealing with loss and love as the familiar hand of the law threatens to tear their family apart.

Greenland was also awarded Best Actress for the Festival for her stunning performance as the damaged but defiant Karen.

The People’s Choice Award, for the audience’s favourite play of the Festival, was presented to The Royal Shakespeareans's present "Romeo & Juliet", a hilarious new version of the tragic tale.

A traveling troupe present their Magnum Opus - Romeo and Juliet like never before, where the tragic hero and heroine survive! But what happens when they don’t have Shakespeare’s lines to recite any more.

Abridged from Shakespeare by Hananah Zaheer and Vikram Ahuja and directed by Salman Qureshi, the play was performed by Zaheer, Qureshi and Michel Atieh as Romeo, with production by Ahuja and Aahad Sayed.

Qureshi later shared the runner-up for Best Actor in the festival for his versatile portrayal of the Narrator, Friar, Nurse and Mercutio.

The Best Script for the festival went to Dubai writer Marie Dullaghan for her moving post-war drama Sam’s Friend, which claimed a second award for Shihas Salim, who shared the runner-up for Best Actor with Qureshi for his stirring performance as the battle-scarred Sam.

The Best Actor award went to Rohit Prakash, who followed up his Best Actor Runner-Up award in last year’s festival to claim the top prize this year. Prakash performed brilliantly in two productions in the Gala, Last Drinks and Closet Happy.

Prakash’s co-star in Last Drinks, Aswathi Menon, 2013’s Best Actress, took out the Best Actor Runner-up award for her beautiful portrayal of a never-defeated but cursed bride-to-be.

Best Director for the Festival went to Gautam Goenka for his super slick production of Sure Thing while Backstage, who had three productions in the Gala Final, took out the Best Independent Theatre Company award.

Best New Talent was given to Hao Ma for his impressive performance in Enclosed Spaces, incredibly the first time he had ever acted on stage.

“Our 2014 Festival saw big jumps in participating artists, audience numbers and plays presented”, said a delighted Festival Director, Alex Broun.

“But most pleasing of all was the lift in quality. Audiences, judges and participants were unanimous that this year’s Festival was of an overall higher standard than last year.”

“Local writers, directors and actors are learning what you can – and can’t – do in ten minutes and really beginning to push the boundaries of the form. And in groups like Loom Ensemble new forms of inter-disciplinary performance are being introduced to local audiences.”

Short+Sweet Dubai 2014 also welcomed groups travelling from all over the UAE and Pakistan to perform at the Festival.

“Short+Sweet Dubai is an increasingly important focal point for the theatre community in the region” added Associate Festival Director, Liz Hadaway. “We look forward to the continued growth of the festival in the years to come.”

Broun also paid tribute to the events sponsors – Marina, Emax, Lifeline Hospital, 800 Doctor and official radio partner, Radio 4.

“Short+Sweet is all about showcasing local talent - actors, writers, directors and Theatre Companies based right here in the UAE”, he said.

“Thanks to these companies for having the vision to support local talent and nurture the local performing arts scene. They realise a strong cultural life is an important element of a healthy society.”

The full list of winners from Short+Sweet Dubai 2014 is as follows:

BEST OVERALL PRODUCTION: Heart in the ground
PEOPLE’S CHOICE WINNER: The Royal Shakespeareans's Present "Romeo & Juliet"
BEST DIRECTOR: Gautam Goenka (Sure Thing)
BEST SCRIPT: Marie Dullaghan (Sam’s Friend)
BEST FEMALE ACTOR: Sally Greenland (Heart in the ground)
BEST FEMALE ACTOR RUNNER-UP: Aswati Menon (Last Drinks)
BEST MALE ACTOR: Rohit Prakash (Closet Happy/Last Drinks)
BEST MALE ACTOR RUNNER-UP: (TIE) Shihas Salim (Sam’s Friend) and Salman Qureshi (Romeo & Juliet)
BEST NEW TALENT: Hao Ma for acting in Enclosed Spaces