By Sonya Rehman
This year, in May, the Urdu adapted version of Shakespeare’s ‘The Taming of the Shrew’ (translated as ‘Ilaj-e-Zid Dasteyaab Hai’) was performed in London, England, as part of the ‘Globe to Globe’ program, initiated by the well-known Globe Theatre as part of London’s 2012 Cultural Olympiad.
Each of Shakespeare’s plays were expected to be performed by 37 theatre troupes from around the world at the festival. Theatre Walley – a local drama company (in collaboration with the NGO, Kashf Foundation), was to be representing Pakistan with a well-known cast of Pakistani actors (of the small screen) and thespians such as Salman Shahid, Nadia Jamil and Omair Rana, among others. Prior to the team’s departure to England, the production had already generated quite a buzz.
Social banter over coffee, Sunday brunches and summer dinners focused on the production’s private screenings (at Alhamra) in Lahore, and the response had been nothing short of positive. The troupe’s performance on the 9th of May in the city, for instance, was received exceptionally well. Performing to a packed audience at Alhamra, the crowd would frequently break out into laughter due to the witty dialogue by way of the cast. The acting, above average, was exceptional. While Nadia Jamil wasn’t able to perform that particular evening (since she was unwell), Salman Shahid, Omair Rana, and Osman Khalid Butt (a thespian from the capital), in addition to the rest of the cast, acted their roles down to a T.
The evening was an entertaining, albeit nostalgic one. For avid Lahori theatre-goers, the production truly reminded one of the quality of theatrical productions back in the 90s.
Actors, Nadia Jamil, Salman Shahid and Omair Rana spoke with HELLO! Pakistan about the production, local theatre and the group’s upcoming performance in England:
What has the rehearsal process been like so far?
Nadia Jamil: Long! On a serious note, though it has been very intense, hilarious, exasperating and enlightening, we have become an ensemble in the truest sense of the word, and have learned so much from each other. As an actor I trust the whole cast completely, even though we are all a bunch of nutters who are always hungry!
Was it challenging, acting in an Urdu adapted version of a popular Shakespeare play?
Nadia Jamil: Any performance has its challenges. Shakespeare has its own but I think the real challenge for me as an actor was convincing myself and learning to be like Quratulaine/Katherina and understanding her equation with Rustum/Petruchio! I had to de-mysoginize it first.
What’s your take on the current theatre scene in Pakistan?
Nadia Jamil: The less said about it the better.
Do you think we ought to have more Urdu adapted versions of plays, or do you think English plays (using the glitz/glamour formula) still work in Pakistan?
Nadia Jamil: All plays work. Obviously if it’s in a language our public understands, it will have more far-reaching effects and will do better. But plays should be ticketed and the quality of the acting and the script should preferably not be rubbish.
What’s your take on sponsorships? Are multinationals willing to shell out cash for a local theatre production these days?
Nadia Jamil: I think rubbish theatre is being supported and marketed brilliantly and decent theater is not being marketed intelligently or promoted at all.
Are you excited about performing in London?
Nadia Jamil: I’m always excited about everything so performing at the Globe Theatre for the Olympics has obviously driven me slightly mad with excitement. I expect to see some fantastic theatre, perform in a kick-ass show, and pass out in joy when I step on stage at the Globe for the first time!
The fact that a Pakistani theatre group is getting to perform at an international theatre festival – does this open up doors for local thespians and artistes in the country vis-à-vis performances abroad?
Salman Shahid: Sure it does. I was informed about the play and thought it was a nice idea so I did it. But you see there are plenty of more opportunities that our institutions ought to advertise, and spread the word about, but they don’t. They let go of many such opportunities and scholarships. At the most they’ll inform their personal contacts, but they aren’t interested in taking on unnecessary responsibility. I’m certain that when these opportunities arise, our practically nonexistent national institutions overlook them!
What are your expectations vis-à-vis performing at the Globe?
Omair Rana: It has been a long and winding road [Laughs]. We’re trying to adjust the glitches and are taking notes from the productions which have already been performed at the festival. The response at home has been pretty good; it has surpassed our expectations to be honest. The tickets have sold out already in England, so we’re quite encouraged.
Given that your team’s been rehearsing for a few months now, did you face any issues along the way?
Omair Rana: This play stood as the epitome of all that can go wrong in putting together a theatrical production in Pakistan. One major problem was the visa issue. It was quite a shocker. 3-4 of our performers’ visas got rejected. Towards the end of it the British Council and the British High Commission sorted it out. Still, it just goes to show how Pakistanis are treated and looked upon with such skepticism.