The glittering performances of theatre fanatics carried on to the fourth day (Sunday) of the Napa Performing Arts Festival, which showcased a mesmerising rendition of afternoon raags and an experimental take on German author Franz Kafka’s life.
Bringing Kafka on stage
Ambitious as it may sound, Uzma Sabeen, a graduate from the academy, was bold enough to stage an original play based on the life of Franz Kafka. “Kafka”, the third play at the Napa Performing Arts Festival, starred Ishtiaq Rassol as Kafka, Akbar Islam as Hermann Kafka (Kafka’s father), Naheed Waheed as Julie Kafka (Kafka’s mother), Raheel Ahmed as Max Broad (Kafka’s friend) and Suhaee Abro as Frida Bradman (Kafka’s love interest).
The play revolves around the various dilemmas faced by the author: his regular bouts of conflict with his father, his friends and with himself. The narrative explores the thought process that led to Kafka’s writings and above all his death at the age of just 41. His demise, which was actually caused by tuberculosis, was intentionally dramatised by the director, who, in the play, showed it to be a suicide.
Akbar Islam stole the show with his resilience as Kafka’s father. With bits of stubbornness coupled with the compulsive need to control others, Islam played the loud and confused old man to perfection. Kafka, on the other hand, was a very difficult character to play and at times the intentional eating up of words seemed as if the actor had forgotten his lines, however, that wasn’t the case because confusion and shakiness were his dominant character traits and Rasool did his level best to do justice to it. Meanwhile, Abro’s free-flowing dance movements and dialogue delivery made her well-suited for the role of Bradman.
However what makes “Kafka” stand out from the other Napa plays is the very intelligent and smart use of stage space and multimedia projections. A space, which seemed too big for a play with only three characters, was smartly blocked by the director and the entire stage was used. The appropriate use of very low-key lighting at places managed to retain the overall dark feeling of the play. Multiple screens for projection played a vital role in capturing some intense scenes of the play.
Earlier in the afternoon, the audience was treated to an interesting mix of musical performances by Napa students and graduates. The day kick-started with Saba Siddiqi’s rendition of some popular songs such as Nazia Hassan’s “Pyar Diyan Gallan”, a performance that earned a huge applause. Then came Gul Faraz, another Napa graduate, who performed some mesmerising ghazals and his soulful voice was a testimony of how formal training in singing can polish inborn talent at such a young age.
Then came one of the best acts of the afternoon when Ahsan Bari, yet another alumni, played the raag Madhmand Sarang on an interesting mix of guitar, bass, sarangi and tabla. It was by far one of the best performances of eastern raags on western instruments and the inclusion of sarangi, in particular, left the audience spellbound.
The musical afternoon ended with a performance by Nadir Abbas, yet another talented vocalist. Upon the request of his teacher Arshad Mehmud, he sang a rendition of the raag “Madhuvanti”, which became one of the best performances of the day.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2012.