This year, I made a mental note to myself to try and explore Dubai beyond the shopping, the restaurants and Friday brunches. So far I’ve done the Global Village, dragged Poss & Ari to the Old Quarter, checked out the Taste of Dubai food festival and even surprised myself by actually catching a play at the Courtyard Playhouse. You’d think one would always want to be out discovering new things in a place like Dubai, but as I’m sure many will agree, once the place you’re at becomes the place you live, the need to explore takes a bit of a back seat.
So when arranging to meet up with my mate Snow the other day, she gave me 2 options … drinks at a place where everybody knows our name or catch the Dubai Drama Group’s production of Love, Loss & What I Wore. Yes, I was surprised I turned down the drinks too, but watching a little comedic theatre sounded like a good night out and as I hadn’t yet been, I figured what the heck and off we went.
Before I get into the play, let me touch on the Courtyard Playhouse first. The space is “Dubai’s first and only dedicated, purpose designed improv’ theatre dedicated to nurturing local talent and developing the improv’ scene”, as written on their website. What you get when you walk in is a gem of a space – cool and retro styled with exposed brickwork and posters aligning the walls – it’s quirky, friendly and instantly puts you at ease. The theatre upstairs is comfortable and cosy with a fab little snack bar window that serves the yummiest salted popcorn. Launched in 2013 and home to a passionate community of theatre lovers, The Playhouse is fast making its mark as a hub for theatrical arts in Dubai, and I for one look forward to taking in more shows.
Now to the play. While I know of Nora Ephron from her romantic comedies like When Harry Met Sally, Sleepless in Seattle and You’ve Got Mail, I had never heard of Love, Loss & What I Wore co-written by her and Delia Ephron, let alone the book by Ilene Beckerman on which the play is based, but I was about to be in for a real treat.
A scrapbook of intimate stories presented in a series of monologues, the play weaves itself through the fabric of a woman’s life as seen via her wardrobe and the memories they trigger. From having nothing to wear to disapproving Mothers, purses in chaos to disappearing men, and fitting room insecurities to accepting that you’ll always wish you bought the black, the stories are poignant, heartwarming, insightful, laugh out loud funny and relatable on so many levels.
At one point, they had the audience envision their own dress and sketch it. Thankfully I didn’t have to hold mine up because if there’s one talent I was definitely absent for when they were being handed out is the ability to draw, anything! The lady next to me and Snow’s dresses looked positively Haute Couture compared to the shapeless rag, complete with stick limbs and an orange for a head that was mine. I’m pretty sure that the next person who got my sketch pad imagined that a 3 year old had drawn it. Actually, a 3 year old would have probably done a better job.
Throughout the play, I could imagine Poss saying that it was like watching all my personalities at one go. And I could also hear my Mum saying “OMG, that’s so you, followed by OMG, that’s so me! It also got me thinking of any wardrobe defining moments in my own life and honestly, I drew a blank. Either I have a terrible memory or I just never gave a toss about what I was wearing at any one particular moment. I’m going to go with the former because I take great pride in my trademark tank top and cropped cargos thank you.
Much like in the play however, I do recall getting my first training bra which had me bending over, pulling at myself in all directions to try and fill it in properly. But no matter how hard I pushed and pulled, those end tips remained elusive – not that that bothered me. This was my rite of passage and a few air pockets weren’t going to stop me. It didn’t help when I got home though and all my brothers asked me in turn why I was even wearing one – “surely an airport runway doesn’t need support”. Ah brothers – they really do wonders for your self esteem.
The one dress I do remember clearly is a dress my Dad bought me on one of his overseas trips, something he had never done before. I was maybe 13 at the time when he presented me with a below the knee, deep emerald green ball gown with scattered black velvet dots on the full skirt and giant poufy short sleeves – hey it was the 80s. Sounds cringy now but back then, I thought it was the bee’s knees and the most beautiful dress I had ever seen. Where he expected me to actually wear this gown was beyond me, but it didn’t matter – because to me, it meant that he had been thinking of his little Princess long enough to pick out a spectacular dress all by himself, and I was just over the moon about that.
I did wind up wearing the dress a few years later to my Year 11 school ball where I ended up ditching my date on account of his vanity. There I was looking all resplendent in my ball gown and he couldn’t even go past a reflective surface without checking himself out. I learnt that day that if a man is more into himself than he is into you … RUN! So that counts as a wardrobe moment … right?