July 06, 2023

Live Performances: A Spotlight on Qatar’s Theatre Scene

Spanning less than 160 km in length and 80 km in width, you might be surprised to learn that Qatar has a thriving and growing arts and culture scene. Not least because of the support offered by the State. The nation's ruling power and government have consistently advocated for the arts and champion a long-term vision to preserve local tradition and heritage while positioning the country as a global hub for arts and culture.

To that end, the country has built numerous museums, art galleries, cultural centres, artistic spaces, and theatres. From the Museum of Islamic Art with its countless historical artefacts to an array of modern public art installations and contemporary graffiti pop-up initiatives, Qatar's emphasis on arts and culture is visible...

Theatrical arts, while relatively new to the region, have, since the 70s, been actively stimulated and encouraged by the State through the establishment of festivals, youth film initiatives and theatre production groups. Plus, with a high expat population in Qatar, there are many players and performers also helping to drive the scene forward.

So if you're a fan of the theatre, where can you get your fix of performances, plays and other theatrical events?

Al Mayassa Theatre - Qatar National Convention Centre

Image: Philip Lange/Shutterstock.com

Al Mayassa is housed in one of the country's most impressive structures, the Qatar National Convention Centre. The convention centre, built-in 2011, was designed by renowned Japanese architect Arata Isozaki. The facade alone is an incredible architectural feat and a wonder to behold. The immense columns supporting the external roof canopy mimic two intertwined trees, paying homage to how scholars gathered underneath the Sidrat al-Muntatha, an Islamic holy tree and a symbol of learning, to share their knowledge.

Inside, the theatre is designed with comfort and elegance in mind. Plush leather seats, custom developed by Bentley, encircle the stage. Soft lighting casts a calming glow around a simple and classically decorated three-tiered auditorium. And a comprehensive sound system is designed to reach all 2,300 guests in surround sound.

Previous notable performances at the theatre include the Nile Festival with distinguished artists from Sudan, Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya, the St. Petersburg Eifman Ballet's rendition of Anna Karenina, and musical performances by Qatar's Philharmonic Orchestra.

Nestled in Education City, the convention centre is a ten-minute walk from the Education City Metro Station on the Green Line. Accessing the building via car is also relatively easy, with multi-level parking facilities available for over 3,000 vehicles.

You can contact the convention centre online at www.qncc.qa/contact-us, or call them on +974 4470 7000

Katara Theatres

Image: Sophie James/Shutterstock.com

Dubbed after one of the older names for the Qatar peninsula, Katara Cultural Village is a state project designed to preserve and maintain Qatar's cultural heritage and identity whilst providing space to explore and celebrate global diversity through art and cultural exchange. As such, Katara boasts an array of beautiful theatres, concert halls, exhibition galleries and art institutes inspired by local and global architecture, where people can learn, create and express themselves, and be entertained. Indeed, Katara hosts a series of events year-round, honouring arts and theatre and celebrating diversity.

Two theatres can be found in the village, Building 16 and the Amphitheatre, each with its own distinct characteristics.

With its sand-coloured walls and geometric architecture, Building 16, housing an opera house and a theatre, is inspired by the traditional buildings of Doha. Inside, the Drama Theatre feels like an open-air experience, with walls decorated to emulate an Arab town, cleverly backlit to seem like the hamlet is occupied. The theatre, designed to host a wide range of events and film screenings, can seat over 400 people.

The colossal Amphitheatre lies in the heart of Katara. With a 5,000-person capacity, this spectacular open-air building, like many in the village, combines architectural styles and features from all over the world, in this case, Greek and Islamic. Cool marble walkways, lined with impressive arches overlooking the village on all sides, lead to the centre of the arena, where one can watch performances on the centre stage or admire the impossibly beautiful views of Katara's promenade, beach and the ocean beyond.

The Schall Jazz concert, organised in coordination with the Embassy of Pakistan, Venezuela's The Dawn, and Georgian National Ballet' Sukhishvili', are just some of the few performances that have taken place in the cultural village's theatres.

Keeping up to date with the latest events, performances and shows at Katara couldn't be easier as their website, www.katara.net/en/whats-on, is regularly updated with planned events in advance. With the Katara Metro Station conveniently located next to the cultural village and plenty of parking available, Katara is easy to access.

Souq Waqif Theatre

Image: abdulaziznasertheatre.com

Souq Waqif Theatre, otherwise known as Abdul Aziz Naser Theatre, is located in the heart of Doha, adjacent to Souq Waqif, the city's traditional Middle Eastern marketplace. In keeping with the architecture of the souq, the theatre is built according to conventional Arabesque design - a two-story building with simple lines, a multitude of archways and wooden lattice bay windows, and geometric ornamental details. The traditional white exterior gives way to cool marble floors on the inside and plush red velvet seats in the auditorium, which sit around a circular stage over two tiers.

With seating for up to 980 guests, this multidisciplinary art space supports both local and international performances. Known for its West End shows, the theatre has hosted various performances, from dramas to comedies. Its diverse portfolio includes Macbeth, Pinocchio, and Twelfth Night, to name a few.

The theatre is just a few steps away from the Souq Waqif Metro Station on the Gold Line. A nearby underground car park also provides ample spots for parking.

You can contact the theatre via their website, www.abdulaziznassertheatre.com/contact, or by emailing [email protected] or calling +974 44 993 093.

Qatar National Theatre

Image: Sharon Wilde/Shutterstock.com

The Qatar National Theatre, which opened its doors in 1982, is located on the Doha Corniche and is Qatar's oldest theatre.

While productions at the National Theatre are not as frequent as in other theatres, no list is complete without mention of this 490-seat theatre, home to several local troupes and a host of regional and international theatrical productions. One of the most notable festivals to take place here was the fifth edition of the annual Arab Theatre Festival in 2013. Qatar was selected to host the festival to recognise the country's significant contribution to arts and culture.

Owned by the Ministry of Culture, Arts and Heritage, the theatre is located along Doha's beautiful Corniche. The theatre, a tall white building built with a nod to traditional architecture with an array of arches and simplistic straight lines, is worth a visit even when there is nothing on at the theatre. The grounds are well-tended and have a tranquil water garden in the central courtyard where you can spend a peaceful hour of contemplation in the middle of a busy city.

You can get to Qatar National Theatre by metro, with the Corniche Metro Station stop on the Red Line a few minutes' walk away. Travelling by car is also a breeze, with plenty of nearby parking available on the road or in Al Bidda Park's underground car parks.

For more information on upcoming performances, contact the theatre at +974 4483 6118.

Performance Groups

Image: Doha Players/Facebook.com

While the theatre experience is relatively new in Qatar and has only gradually garnered local support, numerous independent performance groups and troupes operating in Doha are helping to drive the theatre scene forward, especially amongst the expat population.

While having no permanent performance spaces, these groups are hosted in various locations, including some of the nation's best-loved theatres but also in school, college and university theatres and other auditoriums, arenas and spaces such as the National Museum of Qatar Auditorium. Groups, such as the Doha Players, the Mockingbird Youth Theatre, and the Tanghalang Overseas Pinoy Theatre Company (TO.Pi), are just a few of the organisations regularly performing across the city, offering shows, musicals, plays, and pantomimes, etc.

Doha Players have been performing in Qatar since 1954 and have a vast repertoire of shows under their belts, including their most recent - Cinderella and Sleeping Beauty. The TO.Pi was founded in 2005 by a group of Filipino expats looking to bring their own culture to the stage. They have had great success with various musicals and plays, especially their recent Alikabok (Dust) offering. The recently founded Mockingbird Youth Theatre is part of a wider performing arts organisation which offers acting, dance and musical theatre classes. The Youth Theatre regularly perform at Doha College and has recently collaborated with the Doha Players to play Blue Stockings at the National Museum. These groups and more can be found performing all over Doha and the wider country across the year and are well worth taking the time to watch. Keep an eye on their web and social media pages and other social groups, such as Live Music Doha, for up-to-date performance information.

Interestingly, Qatar's largest mall, The Mall of Qatar, is another venue for watching performing arts…but we especially love the resident troupe here because their shows are completely free! The Mall, designed to be one of the nation's top venues for shopping, dining and entertaining, has, at its centre, under a 30m high atrium, a rotating, multi-lift stage on which the world's first resident theatre troupe perform free shows all year round. Visitors can watch spectacular performances, musical events and more from cafes, restaurants and seating areas spread across two levels and surrounding the central stage; what's not to like! To find out what's on and when, check out the Mall's website, www.mallofqatar.com.qa/events.

So, the next time you're looking for artistic inspiration, check out the performances offered by the theatres, Qatar's independent troupes and, of course, the shows at the Mall of Qatar.

Main image: Sophie James/Shutterstock.com

Published: August 09, 2022
Last updated: July 06, 2023
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