Theatrics: When actions speak louder than words
Meant for a generation that is generally known to have a short attention span, lacks the ability to fathom the gravity of a real-life situation and is not concerned about repercussions, Hawas was a mime-dance play that significantly asserted theatre’s function as a catalyst for social awareness while also realising the consequences of a reckless lifestyle.
Thespianz Theatre in collaboration with the Goethe-Institut organised the staging last week under the newly launched Flying Theatre banner. The play directed by Faisal Malik was a far cry from the otherwise austere settings and formulaic subjects that has become the staple diet for theatre productions these days. The carefully woven story focuses on a boy from a privileged background (Sikandar Arif) who, like most young men his age, is into wooing girls. The play opens with Sikandar and his like-minded buddy (Nabeel Ali) betting over a girl in a restaurant. Both the lads go all out to impress her and taken in by his lavish lifestyle and expensive gifts, the girl falls for Sikandar and the two develop an intimate relationship.
A habitual womaniser, his extravagant spending soon leads him to a state of penury upon which another young man (Hyder) takes him under his care. However, once his true intentions are revealed, the continuous financing and favors by Hyder keeps Sikandar from leaving him and a physical relationship develops between them. With the passage of time, Sikandar is taken unwell and his condition continues to deteriorate until it is revealed that he is HIV-Positive.
Doing a mime (sans any verbal aid) and that too on a small stage set up on the back of a truck offered precious little space for mobility. It wasn’t easy for the cast but under the expert eye of the director they managed to deliver the goods. Chorographers Atif Khan and Baber Ali did a superb job with Bollywood dance numbers Oh la la, Ishq Sufiyana, Maa Ka Ladla Bigger Gaya and Anarkali Disco Chali.
Devoid of clichés, the actors delivered a sterling performance and meticulous teamwork: such as in the opening scene of the play where Sikandar Arif and Nabeel Ali displayed superb chemistry and the effect lingered throughout its duration. Nabeel, an amateur, handled his role meticulously while Sikandar, in his meatier role, was outstanding throughout—especially in the final scene where he also injured his arm while attempting to fall down the stairs.
Hawas was worth the applause it garnered, especially for highlighting a thought-provoking, bold issue such as AIDS among the Gen-Y. Goethe-Institut Director Dr. Manuel Negwer said, “The most important role of theatre is that it has to go into your hearts and this is what Hawas really does.” Dr. Negwer appreciated Faisal Malik and the entire cast, adding that the Flying Theater will take plays to the rural areas of Sindh and Punjab as well.
Thespianz Theatre was formed in 2005 but then Faisal Malik got admission in Napa and he had to put things on hold until after he graduated from the academy in 2008. He was trained in the artistic side of theatre only and he had to work hard on the management side in running a theater group with limited resources. With the passage of time he has survived in a climate of apathy and hostility towards the performing arts, and in a journey that spans over eight years now Thespianz has produced about 42 original plays.
Images on Sunday held a post-performance chat with Faisal Malik.
Q. What led you to do a mime this time? Was it the controversial content of the subject that made you do it without verbal aid?
FM: I want to change the genre of work for Thespianz Theatre and since mime is an advance form of theatre, we decided to give it a try. Miming is to be distinguished from silent comedy in which the artiste is a seamless character on stage. The performance of pantomime originated in Ancient Greece, and the name is derived from a single masked dancer called Pantomimus.
Q. How was the experience with new actors?
FM: With the inception of new channels, arrival of new theatre groups and institutions like Napa a lot of new talent is coming up and providing good human resource to media.
I’m thankful to Noman Shaikh and Umer Malik for technical and logistics support, respectively, while choreographers Atif Khan and Babar Ali also did a great job.
While most of the actors in Hawas have been working with TT for a long time, Nabeel Ali was new but at no point did he give the impression of being a debutant. He was outstanding in executing his role to perfection besides being very cooperative. He is now a permanent part of the cast and we are going to perform in Islamabad for a Sufi dance performance soon.
Q. What are the objectives of The Flying Class and Thesfo?
FM: The Flying Classroom is a mobile school working in the underprivileged and underdeveloped areas of Karachi in collaboration with Goethe-Institut with a mission to educate children. The Thesfo School System is a project of Thespianz and very close to my heart where we provide free education and study material to those living in the slum areas. The money we raise from the performing arts is utilised for these charities.
Q. How important is theatre as agent of social change?
FM: I have always maintained to create awareness through our productions; for instance Water Calligraphy was about the shortage of water that has been predicted for Pakistan by the year 2035, social and family values were highlighted in Uff Yeh Biwiyaan, the malice of office politics was dealt with in Secret of Success and Hawas tackles the subject of a promiscuous lifestyle and relationships. Our future productions will tackle issues such as the lack of education, gender discrimination and health.
Q. What are some of the biggest challenges faced by theatre these days?
FM: Unfortunately, the state-owned culture institutions are not executing their duties the way they should be doing. A new theatre group cannot produce a play without external funding. These institutions should extend limited funds so that they can show their potential to the world. Once in, I’m sure they can manage on their own.
Government support is very import. Our Prime Minister goes on foreign tours with a huge delegation without any representation from the performing arts. I think that nothing better than art can project the soft image of Pakistan. Our government should institute Pakistani cultural centres in foreign countries through our consulates. Also, theatre in Pakistan has not become a revenue-generating enterprise as yet therefore the government should exempt it from taxes.