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Sunday, June 10, 2012

Adaa e Shakespeare in London

Adda, it is a simpler and shorter Urdu language word for style and mannerism. It's use has become somewhat popular over the years relative to the conventional Urdu word for Style which happens to be 'Andaz'. So when I use the expression Adaa-e-Shakespeare, it would mean the style and mannerism of Shakespeare. On this occasion though my focus is directed not to the theatrical story telling style of Shakespeare, but the recent Shakespearean festival that was held in the British capital at the iconic Shakespeare's globe theater in London's South bank. I would say this was a fitting venue for what was a remarkable, multicultural and multilingual theatrical festival, where thousands of spectators in London were audience to various Shakespearean plays including Twelfth Night, Hamlet and As You Like It.

The Non English language adaptations of the plays were more than just a linguistic adaptation, they were a complete cultural insight and experience courtesy of the visiting theater company performing and organizing the play. I had the opportunity to watch two Shakespearean adaptations during this festival, which included 'The Comedy of Errors' in the Dari dialect of Farsi which is spoken in Afghanistan. The Afghan theater company behind the play gave the story of two lost twin brothers and their twin personal servants an Afghan twist. Since Afghanistan is next door and we are home to a large Afghan diaspora, their culture is not too distant and alien to my own native culture in Pakistan, so there was some degree of cultural familiarity. This made for a remarkable evening at the theater even though I could not speak a word of Dari.

I also had the opportunity to watch in this festival a Shakespearean play in my native language 'Urdu' which I am deeply passionate about. For me, my native tongue is more than just a language of communication, for me it is a part of who I am. The Urdu adaptation that I had the good privilege of seeing was 'Taming of the Shrew' which was organised by a theater company based in Pakistan and featured some well known theater and television acting talents from Pakistan, which included Nadya Jamil.

This Urdu language adaptation was given a localized Pakistani flavor to it, and an ideal back drop with which the story proceeds. The Urdu version of the play is set in inner city Lahore which makes for an idea setting since the city is regarded as the cultural capital of Pakistan. The story of this version revolves around the character 'Kiran' (adopted from Katherine in the original English language version) who is the elder daughter of a wealthy native of Lahore. In the play, Kiran's father is shown as a man troubled by the fact that because of his elder daughter's loud mouth and outspoken attitude, he can not find a suitor for her, this results in delays with respect to the settling down in life of the younger daughter Bina, who as we come to know has no shortage of potential suitors.  As it so happens, a Khan saab of Mianwali happens to visit Lahore and comes to learn about the fiesty red hot Kiran and that her father will offer a generous dowry to who ever would dare to ask for her hand in marriage. The more this man learns about Kiran's fiesty attitude, the more interested he becomes in courting the woman known through out Lahore for being the one no wants to court. The character makes it his personal mission, not just to ask for Kiran's hand in marriage, but will also show a thing or two to the world that even the biggest 'shrew' is indeed tamable.

I am not going to go into further details of the play or the story, as knowing myself I am likely to give a lot of spoilers away. What I will say is, being some one who is a regular follower of Urdu Language theater, this was truly the greatest theatrical experience of my life. I could never in my life ask for a more complete Theatrical experience in the British Capital, a Shakespearean comedy play at the Globe theater in London in my native language, and to compliment all of that, it was a beautiful warm sunny day in London. Considering such weather is a rarity in London even during the summer months, the weather provided the perfect setting to make it my perfect outing at the theater. As my time in this dynamic city comes to a close in a few months, this experience is likely to be one of those I will treasure for many years to come, this for me is more than just one of the wonderful experiences of life that one can experience in a city that rightfully deserves the title of being the World's capital. After all great global experiences from great global cities. If only the weather was amazing as the memories this city leaves you with.

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