KARACHI: The second play presented by the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) on Thursday as part of its ongoing Karachi Laughter Festival was Wapsi, directed by a graduate of the academy, Zarqa Naz. It’s an Urdu adaptation of Noel Coward’s Blithe Spirit.
When the play starts, we see a married couple — Mansoor (Syed Arsalan) and Areeba (Najma Kifayat) — talking to each other. They are looking forward to meeting another pair, Dr and Mrs Adil (Faizan Chawla and Safia Bhalaisha) and a clairvoyant Khanum Batool (Shumaila Taj) who will conduct a séance. Mansoor and Areeba’s conversation reveals that the husband’s first wife Naureen (Erum Bashir) passed away after seven years of marriage, and now Areeba wishes to have the hubby’s undivided love.
Then come in Dr and Mrs Adil. But they have little to contribute to the goings-on in terms of their own presence, save for the fact that Mrs Adil shows her goofy, nouveau riche side. Things take a quick turn when Khanum makes a flamboyant entrance. She says she can try to invite the spirit of a dead person into the house, which her hosts find hard to believe, but then she performs a few eccentric acts which result in the arrival of the ghost of Naureen. From there on the story enters an interesting phase because only Mansoor can see Naureen. It creates one set of amusing sequences after another, much to the chagrin of Areeba. Naureen turns out to be a self-indulgent character.
Wapsi has a plot that is interesting and not unfamiliar or alien to comedy lovers. It has its likable moments. But, and a bit in defence of Zarqa Naz, they say a captain is good as his/her team. The acting leaves much to be desired. It is one thing to fumble or fluff a line, but quite another not to recover from it intelligently. Erum Bashir does well, though, perhaps because of the nature of her role which requires her to be as uninhibited as possible. Still, her excessive movement across the stage makes her come across as an animated caricature than a character. The script could also have been revisited, because translating humour is no mean feat. You not only have to transfer the sense of humour emanating from a certain culture to another but also find suitable substitutes for its idiomatic expressions.
Let’s give the Wapsi team the benefit of the doubt for Thursday, which was the play’s opening night. One hopes that the performances on Friday, Saturday and Sunday are error-free.
Published in Dawn, January 18th, 2020