KARACHI: The third presentation of the Napa — I am Karachi Theatre Series, Slaver: Aaj Ki Taza Qabr/Khabar, held at the PACC on Thursday, had the makings of a superior dramatisation. With supernatural elements woven into the corroding social fabric of a city in despair, the play unfortunately fell through on many fronts.
It begins with a dance sequence with men wearing gruesome masks which in no way contributed towards the furthering of the play’s narrative and came off as very jarring. Doing away with the sequence altogether would benefit the play as it looked very misplaced and forced.
The premise is of four friends Kashif, Faisal, Billy and Goonga who, to escape from the police, hide in a graveyard. Their nightmares come true when the dead surrounding them come alive and the horrifying reality becomes heightened when they, with the aid of a satanic force, loop in the men to create mischief and eventually overthrow the land with their twisted ideas.
A presentation by Green Veins and scripted by Saima Nasir the play tries to make use of as many clichés as possible on an already jam-packed stage. Some of these work while the others fall through.
The dead souls include a lawyer, clearly a successful one for all the wrong reasons, two policemen, a politician who hasn’t lost his disarming charm to attract troublemakers, and even a suicide bomber. Most of the characters play their roles with confidence and displayed a raw talent that should be appreciated and further honed.
Social evils plaguing the city are the backbone of the play and the actors made the effort to make it more interactive with the audience. This is one of the major strengths of the play. Another was the humour employed. The witty anecdotes were not overplayed and the ease with which the performers interacted with each other allowed the play to flow smoothly.
Acting in most small-scale productions tends to be undermined, however in Slaver: Aaj Ki Taza Qabr/Khabar a range of commendable actors graced the stage. Meer Aslam Lashari who played the role of Goonga deserves special mention.
His mannerisms, comic timing and the overall confidence with which he plays the character of a mute was downright hilarious and very endearing to the crowd. His acting alone is a reason to watch the play.
The other two who also deserve appreciation are Younas Khan, also the director of the play, and Ahmed Mujtaba. The male leads were more superior in terms of character development and the female roles left much to be desired. They can even be accused of being caricatures and seemed forcibly put together as part of the narrative.
There are references to Malala Yousafzai and how terrorist forces, as well as corrupt ones, are hell-bent on transforming the city into hell on earth. What the play suffers from is the literal interpretation it employs to convey the message.
There is no nuance in the depiction of suicide bombing, corruption rampant in the country or even in the item songs that are used to woo a woman. This is a pity because a stronger script and better direction could be done justice to with the talented actors at hand.
Published in Dawn, May 8th, 2015
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