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Monday, August 8, 2011

Remember Remember the 5th of November but Not this One

It has been some time now, that the city of Karachi has witnessed the return of theater. Theater has marked its return in both the English and the Urdu language and over the months the residents of this great city have seen some remarkable plays. From recreated musicals such as Shah Sharabeel's 'Bombay Dreams' to the classic Urdu story 'Begum Jaan'. The latter featuring the acting talents of the likes of the Nimra Bucha and Naila Jafri. This past weekend, the city witnessed the staging of 'V for Vendetta' held at the Rangoonwala Center Auditorium in the Dhoraji Area of Karachi. The choice of venue for stagging the play was a surprising one, as most productions including ameture and student theater make their way to Karachi's Arts council as venue of choice.

V for Vendetta is based on the graphic novel by Alan Moore which depicts a dyspotian future in the United Kingdom where the country is ruled in a dictatorship style manner by a fascist political party. The graphic novel was popularised globally including Pakistan by its cinematic adaptation in 2006 which starred Hugo Weaving and Natalie Portman. For those unfamiliar with the plot of V, it revolves around the story of a masked vigallente that wears a Guy Fawkes mask and identifies himself as V, who intends on bringing down the fascist regime ruling the United Kingdom and recreating the original 5th of November gunpowder plot to blow up the British parliment. For fans of the movie and the graphic novel, this promised to be the most eagerly anticipated play of the year and an ideal way to end the pre-ramzan theater season, however much to the disappointment of not just fans of this remarkable film and graphic novel, but also fans of theater itself.

Our first impression off the production house behind this play was not a favourable one, as upon arrival at the Rangoonwala Auditorium there were no signs, posters or banners put up indicating that this was indeed the correct venue for the play. As for the play itself, inspite of producers promising punctuality, the play started about 40 minutes later than its originally scheduled time. A possible reason for the delay could be the very poor turn out to the play for a Saturday night. Considering the massive capacity of the auditorium, it barely had 5-10% attendence. Even the exclusively reserved front row VIP seats were vacant through out the play. The temptation of free luxury gourmet chocholates could not tempt those invited to attend the play. My best guess is that word got out following the premier night with regards to the quality of the theaterical production. Even as the play commenced

The play itself was not a proper theatrical adaptation of Alan Moore's graphic novel rather it was an imitation of the 2006 film, incorporating major scenes from the film such as the chancellor's speech and the alley scene where the character of V saves the character of Evey from being harassed by government officials amidst the late evening curfew. The actors playing the lead characters of V and Evey appeared unconvincing and unprepared for the role, with the only remotely convincing acting coming from the actor potraying the grand chancellor. However poor acting was not the only source of disappointment for the audience, as the quality of production lacked professionalism and adequete management. The direction and on screen execution of the play reflected a great deal about the ability of the team behind this production. The set and the props were very poor, as was the quality of audio and visual effects. Apart from that, there were long delays and pauses between scenes, on occassions for upto 10 minutes the audience was left sitting in the pitch black darkness of the auditorium between scenes.

Poor acting and long pauses combined were amongst the reasons why this theatrical experience failed to catch the attention of the audience and engage them in the story. One can only hope that in the future, we see a return of this epic novel in the form of a professional theatrical production that does justice to V for Vendetta and executes it in a manner that this story truly deserves. For those that missed out the play, they truly did not miss out on anything.

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