The Road to Qatar

Rating ***
Reviewed by Alex Foott

Thirty seconds into this piece and I am already gripping the edge of my seat in horrified anticipation. Before us, the cast are dressed in traditional Arabic clothing and are singing about (You guessed it!) terrorism. I locate the nearest exit, planning my escape, when suddenly I hear a sound. It is laughter. Roaring, soaring laughter. And it is bursting freely from the mouths of those around me. Looking back to the stage, I breathe a sigh of relief as I watch the performers embark on a jovial tap sequence. Suffice to say this is not an isolated case. There are a few similarly agonising moments in The Road to Qatar, teetering between comedy and repugnance though, thankfully, the overall tone is generally innocent and jocular.

Written by Stephen Cole and David Krane, this wholly autobiographical story centres around Michael and Jeffrey (James Robert-Moore and Josh Rochford), two gay musical theatre writers from New York. They are commissioned by the Emir of Qatar to write an original musical and travel to Dubai where they meet the Emir’s representative Mansour (Richard Morse) and his assistant Nazirah (Natasha Karp). Needless to say, as the Americans begin constructing their show, they are continually confronted with various technical difficulties and the Emir’s myriad demands.

What stands out most prominently in this production is the tone of the humour. Very similar to that of comedy titans Trey Parker and Matt Stone, it borders on being hugely offensive. However, the cast of five are sensitive in their approach and the majority of the gags are delivered carefully. The show also highlights the various discrepancies between the Eastern and Western worlds, subtly scrutinising wealth, religion and homophobia. The score boasts catchy songs such as ‘It Must Be’ and ‘Good Things Come in Threes’ and the cast produce a strong and well blended sound, giving this production a reassuring air of professionalism.

There are a few questionable accents and at times the voices struggle to stay on key but, all in all, the cast are impressive. Robert-Moore and Rochford carry the piece with camp aplomb, while Karp, Morse and Sami Lamine offer delicious injections of comedy. Although the audacious jokes will cause your heart to falter, rest assured that you will leave with a grin, quietly humming the show’s memorable melodies.

Book and lyrics by Stephen Cole
Music by David Krane
Directed by Kate Golledge
Performance date – Mon 5th Aug 2013