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Intezaar – for the gallows

April 07, 2017

LAHORE: A play based on actual cases of prisoners on death row was staged at the Forman Christian College on Thursday.

Intezaar – (The wait) was a collaborative effort between Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), Ajoka Theatre, Highlight Arts and Complicite. It was directed by Dina Mousawi (Complicite), produced by Ryan Van Winkle (Highlight Arts) and written by Shahid Nadeem (Ajoka).

The play was presented in a courtyard of the college as an interactive piece. The characters moved around addressing the audience that surrounded the courtyard and involving them in their performance.

The hour-long play began with policemen walking around and interacting with the audience. There were the gallows on one side. Families of two inmates were waiting in one corner to meet their relatives for the last time and collect their bodies. Inside the prison, one inmate was mentally challenged, another paraplegic, a juvenile, an artist, one who sings, a schizophrenic, yet another who spends his time studying and teaching others. And then there those jailed due to the flawed criminal justice system.

These inmates walked the audience through the circumstances that brought them there in the first place; a lawyer fighting for justice for the juvenile, the mentally challenged and the physically handicapped, arguing they could not be hanged under international laws. These sombre moments were intertwined with instances of song and dance, poetry and laughter.

Each character was convincingly portrayed by actors from Ajoka Theatre.

The play ended with the entire cast singing the tag line written by Shahid Nadeem: ‘Kaisay lay saktay ho vo jaan, jo tum day nahi saktay. Kaisay kaat saktay ho vo fasl jo tum bo nahi saktay’.

It was named Intezaar to underline the impact of the wait to be hanged has not only on an inmate, but also on his/her family. The play showed the miserable conditions the prisoners have been in for years and their attempts at adding some meaning to the last few moments of their lives, by cracking jokes, singing, dancing, educating themselves and just being there for each other.

This theatre piece will be staged in Rawalpindi on April 10 and in Faisalabad on April 11.

Published in Dawn, April 7th, 2017