Review: Petra Rocks


Photo Courtesy: Jordan Times

Photo Courtesy: Jordan Times

By: Fawzi Y. Barghouthi

Whenever there is a major local production, I feel almost obliged to give praise and ignore the obvious glitches and mistakes. With Petra Rocks there were so many that I couldn’t keep them in my blind spot.

A good place to start is purchasing the tickets . The person in charge of the tickets at the National Center for Culture and Arts was ill informed. I attended the night Dima Bawwab didn’t perform, a fact that person failed to mention when I went to buy the tickets two weeks ahead, right after he also failed to tell me that there is a seating chart and that the tickets are numbered. When asked about it, he thought that it was not his job to know.

The play itself was disappointing. After an announcement that the play will be delayed because “some people called and are still on the way”, the show opened to dancers dancing out of sync, costumes that, save for a couple of outfits worn by the lead actors, looked like something you’d see in a high school production, and lead actors that mostly looked like they were following steps and instructions rather than acting.

It wasn’t all negative. The set design was brilliant, with a level of creativity I haven’t seen before in any show in Amman. Despite the bad acting some voices were amazing, and the lead actors were very well trained, vocally. Rose El Wirr came as the biggest surprise, for someone who was part of probably the most talentless TV series ever made (Nisf Al Qamar) her voice was sensational.  Adeeb Derhalli did a great job, with him and Lara Sawalha being the only actors who looked like they were in character. However, I would be interested in seeing Sawalha in a  more serious role, since her role in the play felt too similar to her acting in a couple of the Ramadan shows with her father, actor Nabeel Sawalha.

My disappointment in the play stems mostly from the fact that I am tired of saying “it was brilliant, considering it’s a local production” or “it’s a great start”. With the amount of advertising, and as it appears the funding that it received, I expected more from the many highly established names in this sector in Jordan put together.




  • Nabil

    I wish we had more objective theatre critics such as Fawzi. I would like to say that Lina al Tel did a tremendous job of collecting so much Jordanian talent and putting it together, knowing that when one tackles a production such as this, it takes a lot of energy and hard work because of the lack of supporting establishments for such a job. It is always like starting theatre anew.
    I also think Lina’s job was harder because the script did not have enough dramatic elements and surprises that a theatre production needs; it was rather narrative and lacked conflict and subtext. I liked your comment about the set, it was very creative, and I would also like to mention that the music of Nasser Sharaf, to me, made the play. I enjoyed his mix of East and West and the supporting instrumentals. The other factor that did not support Lina’s effort was the choreography; it was predictable, and a little repetitive. I thought the actors gave credible performances, but to be more than credible you need a more confrontational dialogue to bring a better performance. If I had to ask anything of the scriptwriter, my good friend, Jamal Abu Hamdan, I would ask him “did the Nabataeans not have any sense of humour or funny character that we should sit through an hour and a half without one smile?”

  • Nabil

    I wish we had more objective theatre critics such as Fawzi. I would like to say that Lina al Tel did a tremendous job of collecting so much Jordanian talent and putting it together, knowing that when one tackles a production such as this, it takes a lot of energy and hard work because of the lack of supporting establishments for such a job. It is always like starting theatre anew.
    I also think Lina’s job was harder because the script did not have enough dramatic elements and surprises that a theatre production needs; it was rather narrative and lacked conflict and subtext. I liked your comment about the set, it was very creative, and I would also like to mention that the music of Nasser Sharaf, to me, made the play. I enjoyed his mix of East and West and the supporting instrumentals. The other factor that did not support Lina’s effort was the choreography; it was predictable, and a little repetitive. I thought the actors gave credible performances, but to be more than credible you need a more confrontational dialogue to bring a better performance. If I had to ask anything of the scriptwriter, my good friend, Jamal Abu Hamdan, I would ask him “did the Nabataeans not have any sense of humour or funny character that we should sit through an hour and a half without one smile?”

  • http://www.taladajani.com/ Tala Dajani

    Hello Fawzi, thank you for your review. My mum was the one who designed and made the costumes, and I have been passing on everyone’s comments to her (the positive but also the constructive). Before i pass your comments on, i just wanted a clarification. what exactly were you expecting towns folk to wear? costumes as lavish as those of the lead characters? wouldn’t that be very confusing as to the role of the characters? I started thinking about the westend musicals I have attended; in Les Miserables the town people looked well, very common… and in Wicked the school children were wearing basic school uniforms, and those are both world class musicals.

    The person who sold you the tickets sounds very unprofessional, and I am sorry you had such an experience, but it also seems to me that you made up your mind to hate the musical then. And yes, the set design was brilliant, It was done by a Jordanian who specialised in set design, the first ever to do so, and this is the first local production she has worked in. let’s hope there will be more productions so as she can continue to awe us :)

  • http://www.taladajani.com Tala Dajani

    Hello Fawzi, thank you for your review. My mum was the one who designed and made the costumes, and I have been passing on everyone’s comments to her (the positive but also the constructive). Before i pass your comments on, i just wanted a clarification. what exactly were you expecting towns folk to wear? costumes as lavish as those of the lead characters? wouldn’t that be very confusing as to the role of the characters? I started thinking about the westend musicals I have attended; in Les Miserables the town people looked well, very common… and in Wicked the school children were wearing basic school uniforms, and those are both world class musicals.

    The person who sold you the tickets sounds very unprofessional, and I am sorry you had such an experience, but it also seems to me that you made up your mind to hate the musical then. And yes, the set design was brilliant, It was done by a Jordanian who specialised in set design, the first ever to do so, and this is the first local production she has worked in. let’s hope there will be more productions so as she can continue to awe us :)

  • http://www.undermyolivetree.com/ Ali Dahmash

    Thanks Fawzi for your feedback, we always have a major problem with the organizers of the events. Usualy the problem is eductaing the staff about the event or informimg them about important details like you mentioned. I’m sure alot of effort and details were put to make this a successful play but too bad we have ignorant people who spoil it. Didn’t know Adeeb was in the play too.

  • http://www.undermyolivetree.com Ali Dahmash

    Thanks Fawzi for your feedback, we always have a major problem with the organizers of the events. Usualy the problem is eductaing the staff about the event or informimg them about important details like you mentioned. I’m sure alot of effort and details were put to make this a successful play but too bad we have ignorant people who spoil it. Didn’t know Adeeb was in the play too.

  • Dina

    With all due respect, one of the main reasons I don’t like to read “professional” critical reviews, is because I feel they can often be too “philosophical” and picky and analytical to the point of OVERKILL. Why we need to dissect the poor musical to death is beyond me… For once in a veeeeeery long while, I actually went out and watched something Jordanian and enjoyed it, and I left with a big smile on my face and an uplifted spirit (except for the fact that so many people in Jordan lack theater culture and etiquette).

    The bottom line each one of us has to ask themselves is: Did you like it or not? And from the many people I have spoken to, I gather many people liked it. Obviously not everyone will, (even the prophets were not “unanimously popular”). And I am talking about people with sophisticated taste, people who have watched Musicals on Broadway and in London. They liked it. Personally, there were FOUR adults and two children that went to watch the play from my family, each with a very different taste, and I was so happy to find that each and every one of us – even my mother who NEVER goes to any plays cuz she generally doesn’t have the patience to sit through one! – really enjoyed it.

    Yes, the script was a bit bland and “preachy” (as in the Nabateans were Holier and better than all the other people on earth), and perhaps Jamal Abu Hamdan is a bit “burned out”. But I think everyone else more than made up for the poor plot. There was a great team spirit and synergy on stage, the talents all did a very impressive job. In my opinion, everyone was “easy on the eye” and “easy on the ears” (except for poor Yasir Al-Masri, whom I think was done a grave injustice by being asked to sing, and yet there was something a bit funky about his false Baritone!). Nasser Sharaf definitely blew the soul into the play with his music that really “ROCKS”. Amer Al-khuffash did a great job with very witty Lyrics (I advise everyone to purchase the CD.) and the costumes were simple but elegant. I’m sure they didn’t exactly have a budget like CATS. Plus, I suppose it cost them and arm and a leg to hire some of the A-list team members and build the fancy set, so perhaps they had to compromise…let’s not forget how little support Artists and Art in our country get, from any side. I tip my hat for these guys, who were able to rise above all the frustration and neglect and deliver the performances they did. Until Artists and Art in our country DO have the same support, financially and morally as artists do abroad, we DO have to cut them some slack, and evaluate their work within the very disheartening and demoralizing constraints of the Jordanian cultural scene.

    “Objective” doesn’t have to be “Negative”. I would be very curious to hear what an “objective” foreign critic would think of the show. What’s that saying about “no prophet goes appreciated in their own land?”

    I am sure there are those who may feel about the show the way Fawzy did, but I beg to differ, and I know many others who do as well.

  • Dina

    With all due respect, one of the main reasons I don’t like to read “professional” critical reviews, is because I feel they can often be too “philosophical” and picky and analytical to the point of OVERKILL. Why we need to dissect the poor musical to death is beyond me… For once in a veeeeeery long while, I actually went out and watched something Jordanian and enjoyed it, and I left with a big smile on my face and an uplifted spirit (except for the fact that so many people in Jordan lack theater culture and etiquette).

    The bottom line each one of us has to ask themselves is: Did you like it or not? And from the many people I have spoken to, I gather many people liked it. Obviously not everyone will, (even the prophets were not “unanimously popular”). And I am talking about people with sophisticated taste, people who have watched Musicals on Broadway and in London. They liked it. Personally, there were FOUR adults and two children that went to watch the play from my family, each with a very different taste, and I was so happy to find that each and every one of us – even my mother who NEVER goes to any plays cuz she generally doesn’t have the patience to sit through one! – really enjoyed it.

    Yes, the script was a bit bland and “preachy” (as in the Nabateans were Holier and better than all the other people on earth), and perhaps Jamal Abu Hamdan is a bit “burned out”. But I think everyone else more than made up for the poor plot. There was a great team spirit and synergy on stage, the talents all did a very impressive job. In my opinion, everyone was “easy on the eye” and “easy on the ears” (except for poor Yasir Al-Masri, whom I think was done a grave injustice by being asked to sing, and yet there was something a bit funky about his false Baritone!). Nasser Sharaf definitely blew the soul into the play with his music that really “ROCKS”. Amer Al-khuffash did a great job with very witty Lyrics (I advise everyone to purchase the CD.) and the costumes were simple but elegant. I’m sure they didn’t exactly have a budget like CATS. Plus, I suppose it cost them and arm and a leg to hire some of the A-list team members and build the fancy set, so perhaps they had to compromise…let’s not forget how little support Artists and Art in our country get, from any side. I tip my hat for these guys, who were able to rise above all the frustration and neglect and deliver the performances they did. Until Artists and Art in our country DO have the same support, financially and morally as artists do abroad, we DO have to cut them some slack, and evaluate their work within the very disheartening and demoralizing constraints of the Jordanian cultural scene.

    “Objective” doesn’t have to be “Negative”. I would be very curious to hear what an “objective” foreign critic would think of the show. What’s that saying about “no prophet goes appreciated in their own land?”

    I am sure there are those who may feel about the show the way Fawzy did, but I beg to differ, and I know many others who do as well.

  • TK

    To be fair, and as a person who really liked the show (The music, scenes, words and performance of Amer and Dima were amazing) , I agree with him whether I liked it or not we cannot change facts. The problem is not the actors, they do what they told and directed and they were selected carefully, the real problem is on the directing level as usual, closed Arabian minds, connections (I bid there were people involved in this project from the field but still as they are close to the decision maker they affected the quality expected from such play after the huge advertising campaign SUCH AS THE POOR DANCING!!!!!

    I hope they improve as such play can go worldwide very easily.

  • Natali

    I love anything that is done locally. It is great to see Jordanians perform on the stage. Nevertheless, I would agree with Fawzi on some points. My biggest highlight of the show was Rose el Wirr. I did not expect to hear such amazing voice, and at every moment of the show was looking for the 'Mother' to sing. My gosh, she is a beautiful singer! Thousands of my praise go to her! The design was great. The music was enchanting. The lead actors were quite convincing.
    My worst disappointment – the dancing. Nevermind the choreography, but out of line dancing should not happen on a stage like that. And I don't believe if someone starts telling that it is difficult to have good dancing in Jordan. I've seen Circassian dancing troupe at Jerash. Also, local product, local people, local choreography, I'm definite – not enough financial support, and yet – briilliant dancing. Much better than the one at the play.
    Nevertheles, thank you to everyone who contributed to the play. I hope things will be improved for the future, and I still really enjoyed the performance.

  • Natali

    I love anything that is done locally. It is great to see Jordanians perform on the stage. Nevertheless, I would agree with Fawzi on some points. My biggest highlight of the show was Rose el Wirr. I did not expect to hear such amazing voice, and at every moment of the show was looking for the 'Mother' to sing. My gosh, she is a beautiful singer! Thousands of my praise go to her! The design was great. The music was enchanting. The lead actors were quite convincing.
    My worst disappointment – the dancing. Nevermind the choreography, but out of line dancing should not happen on a stage like that. And I don't believe if someone starts telling that it is difficult to have good dancing in Jordan. I've seen Circassian dancing troupe at Jerash. Also, local product, local people, local choreography, I'm definite – not enough financial support, and yet – briilliant dancing. Much better than the one at the play.
    Nevertheles, thank you to everyone who contributed to the play. I hope things will be improved for the future, and I still really enjoyed the performance.

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