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Shakespeare gets a Pakistani makeover in London

Nadia Jamil playing QuratulAin, (Katherinain) -Photo credit: Rai Muhammad AzlanShahid/Hosh Media.

When I arrived in the UK a year-and-a-half ago for my studies, I came up with a ‘to-do’ list and going to the theatre to watch a Shakespearean play topped that list.

I finally met the goal last month, albeit with a twist as the play was set in Pakistan and written in Urdu.

I should explain: I went to Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre where the World Shakespeare Festival 2012 is being organised as part of London’s on-going Olympic festivities. Here, 37 of the Great Bard’s plays are being staged in 37 languages from across the globe.

As luck would have it, the play I saw was being presented by a team from Pakistan, called Theatre Wallay, who performed an Urdu version of “The Taming of the Shrew”. It is a story of two sisters. While the beautiful Bianca has no shortage of suitors, her father, Baptista Minola, decrees she cannot marry before her elder sister Katherina, who is the shrew in this story. The aficionados of Bianca pay a witty fortune-seeker, Petruchio, to marry Katherina. In the end Petruchio manages to marry her and tame the shrew through all the possible means, on the other hand the admirers of Bianca fall over each other in their attempt to win her love and eventually after a hilarious rivalry, Lucentio wins her love while Hortensio and Gremio are left crying over their fate.

The show began with the appearance of legendry actor Salman Shahid, who made an introductory speech which ended with, “now these musicians will play the national anthem, of Pakistan, of course, but don’t worry it is just the national anthem not a takeover.”

The following two-and-a-half hours were full of amusement, where the centuries-old classic was translated in such a powerful manner that it actually appeared as if Shakespeare wrote it while spending a few years in Lahore.

Baptista Minola became Mian Basheer (Salman Shahid), Katherina became QuratulAin (Nadia Jamil), Bianca became Bina (Keren David). Hasnat (Osman Khalid Butt), Ghazi (Mukkaram Kaleem), and Qazim (Umer Naru) were the suitors in the Urdu version. Rustam, played by Omair Rana, was the Urdu version of the man on a mission Petruchio.

The other characters who provided an added Pakistani flavour were Mir (Tranio), Biru (Binodello), Sifarish Khan (Grumio), Peepa (Curtis), Waqarudin (Vincentio), Tajir (Merchant), and Begum (Widow). Maria Khan was the Sly or Ravi of the story.

Actors on stage. Scene set in Lahore. -Photo credit: Rai Muhammad AzlanShahid/Hosh Media.

The performances were amazing, all the actors did full justice to their characters, however, Omair Rana, Nadia Jamil, and Keren David were the best with their acting, their expressions, their dialogue deliver, and the way they added life to the story. And of course, my personal favourite (all-time favourite I would say), was Salman Shahid who gave strong support to the show with his witty, and at times, tri-lingual dialogues.

The team successfully added different aspects of Pakistan to the play. Lahore, Karachi, and Mianwali replaced the cities mentioned in the original version. To render authenticity to the play, different accents of Urdu could be heard on stage, despite the fact that Urdu was a foreign language for most of the crowd. Electric boards on both sides of the stage carried subtitles in English in the amphitheatre venue. The hall burst with applause when the ending dialogue “Aaai BOOOOW” was delivered as “Theatre Wallay” were given a standing ovation by most of the attendees.

Rai Muhammad Azlan Shahid wrote this review for Hosh media, an organization that aims to mentor young bloggers and bring youth voices on to mainstream media.

The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (22) Closed

Jun 14, 2012 04:29pm
I was there and can vouch for the superb performance put in by the group to a packed audience, including a very large proportion of non-Pakistanis, who couldn't understand Urdu but enjoyed the entertaining play nonetheless. Long standing ovation at the end at this historic venue. Absolutely wonderful !
Jun 15, 2012 12:27pm
Waooooooooooo good to know. Hats off to the entire team :)
Jun 14, 2012 08:24pm
By in large it was a combination of loud and bad performances along with weak script. the translation didn't do justice at all to Shekspeare.
Jun 14, 2012 07:33pm
I wish I had known, I work stone throw away from the theatre!
Jun 15, 2012 10:59am
Shakespeare's words by Nadia Jamil. Excellent compination.
Jun 14, 2012 01:46pm
A healthy diversion from the 24/7 drama going on in Pakistan.
Jun 14, 2012 11:28am
Well written and I could not make it due to being away. Thanks for sharing the pics too!
Jun 15, 2012 06:42pm
Well Written Rai Sb.
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:56pm
Thank you sir
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:55pm
i travelled from Wales for this.
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:55pm
i have voice recording of ending speech. no idea if i am allowed to publish it or not
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:54pm
Thanks for appreciation bro
Anwar Amjad
Jun 14, 2012 05:11pm
Thank you for such as good coverage of an important Urdu entertainment event.
Jun 14, 2012 08:45pm
I am a proud British Pakistani, and I was flying the Pakistani flag for weeks before the performance telling everyone that they needed to come. All I can say is what a disappointment! I also went to see Twelfth night a few weeks before that was preformed by the Company Theater. I was truly blown away by it. It was a fantastic translation of the original play and kept the humor and tone of Shakespeare. He would have been proud. I gave a standing ovation for 10 mins. It was colorful and the music was wonderful. In comparison the taming OF THE shrew BY THE thearter WALAS seemed as if it had been put together the night before. Having said Omair Rana was great. I did clap for his performance. My disappointment steams from the fact that I know that Pakistani Dramas are some of the best in the world, and I expected allot from the taming of the shrew.
Ghinva Raza
Jun 14, 2012 01:03pm
WAOO! this is amazing,i can surely imagine how great it would have been! Thanks For Sharing Mr Rai!! it bought tears n smile at the same time!
Naseema Perveen
Jun 14, 2012 12:58pm
good one I like it!
Jun 15, 2012 09:22am
I was there and can vouch for the superb performance put in by the group to a packed audience, including a very large proportion of non-Pakistanis, who couldn't understand Urdu but enjoyed the entertaining play nonetheless. Long standing ovation at the end at this historic venue. Absolutely wonderful !
Agha Waqar Haider
Jun 16, 2012 03:17am
Too late for me to attend...wish there is a video I can watch online or in person... hope Theater Wallay are on tour.
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:57pm
may be.... may be Shakespeare Globe Theatre will issue recordings
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:56pm
My Pleasure
Rai M Azlan
Jun 18, 2012 02:56pm
you are welcome
Jun 23, 2012 10:17pm
i totally agree, v. weak play.