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Let there be light: Daere Let there be light: Dark Room is a reel better left undevelopedrk Room is a reel better left undeveloped

Karachi The curtain opens. It takes a while before your eyes adjust to the dim light on the stage. You make out a table, a shelf and a red sheet instead of a door, behind which is the titular dark room. And it’s play time.

On November 7, ‘Dark Room’, written by the great Sarmad Sehbai, was staged at the Arts Council as part of the Karachi Theater Festival. Set in 1970s, the story revolves around four bachelor friends: Siddiqui (Taha Hussain), a scandal reporter, Jamshed (Saad Hassam), a photographer, Kamran (Habib Ullah) a receptionist and Zafar (Fahad Yousuf Khan) a painter.

It is important to note that Sehbai wrote the play in 1970, and won the best play award at Urdu Theater Festival 1971. The strong performances must be as big of a reason as Sehbai’s powerful writing. However, the latest production, directed by well-known NAPA graduate Aliee Shaikh, falls flat on its face. And the reason is definitely the performances.

A play which could have had so much impact became a parody of the message it was trying to send. The only thing which kept you from walking out was the set, which exuded nostalgia and transported you to that era. The old radio on the shelf, a broken mirror, a charpai surrounded by the dusty yellow walls created a perfect mood for the setting. In fact, the director’s effort in making sure the set stands out and his stage blocking is only undermined by the performances.

After the one-and-a-half hour long play ended, the interactive session started. However, most of the audience was not interested and ready to leave. “When you create a play for the masses, it should be executed in a way that everybody can enjoy, not just five people among the twenty,” said one audience member. “If only five people understand the message, they can get the message without the play as well. Then there is no need for such a play,” she added.

The play had a some entertaining moments but they were few and far between. The characters, which could have had interesting dynamics due to their professions and nature, ended up becoming caricatures of themselves. The actors looked their part, with the costumes and the backdrop at their aid, but could not convince the audience that they were who they were supposed to be.

“Even first year acting students perform better than this,” said one NAPA graduate. “If you read the script, it has the power to make you cry. All of that impact was lost because of mediocre performances.”

The curtain opens. And you want it to fall again, because you would rather go home and watch a pirated version of Ae Dil Hai Mushkil, as it’s more believable.

Published in The Express Tribune, November 9th, 2016.

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Courtesy : Express Tribune



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