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.
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.