The ubiquitous ‘farce’ genre rooted in situational humour has run rampant in the Islamabad Club’s Auditorium in the past, but now emerges the promise of something more sophisticated and intellectually textured. “God of Carnage” written by French playwright Yasmina Reza will be performed till September 16.
Though not overtly farcical, the play deals with the many guises an individual dons while reaching a compromise between his primal self and the demands of a civilised society. Social commentary is the cornerstone of the play as two couples engage in various discussions as they try to resolve a fight that broke out between their 11-year-old sons. “We are not trying to impart any social message, but creating art for art’s sake. Any conclusions the audience reaches will be their own,” clarifies Malik.
Indeed, Malik’s interpretation of the play is decidedly on the fence, as he more or less has used Reza’s original script translated from French to English. That being said, keeping the original script of “God of Carnage” intact is anything but playing it safe. Reza’s play openly talks about what could be considered controversial or elusive to a Pakistani audience; homosexuality, secularism, indigenous practices, and ‘colonial guilt’. Not to mention, the characters are swiveling alcohol for more than half of the play with a quaint Brooklyn home as their backdrop.
The class difference between the two couples — Alan, a corporate lawyer (played by Ali Rehman) and Annette, a wealth manager (played by Malika Zafar) and the second couple Michael, a wholesaler (played by Uzair Khan) and Veronica, a writer (played by Maha Khan) — is something Malik feels the audience can relate to. Moreover, the breakdown of each character down to their naked ‘ids’, begs the question if anyone ever can really become an adult.
Khan, who has worked with Malik previously, shares that it was a novel experience working with a cast of only four and that it allows the fostering of a collective unison between them. “I wanted to give more dimension to my character by showing that although he is a self-made man now, he struggled earlier,” he explains. “Michael’s inability to be a part an educational institution signified his primal nature to me.”
Michael’s wife, on the other hand, struggles to maintain a moralistic ground in an inherently unjust world. “I believe Veronica will learn something from this confrontation but I don’t think it will change her,” said Maha, adding that she sees her character as “flat” and incapable of change.
The role of Alan, is even more complex — engrossed in his professional life, he believes it’s in a man’s nature to be destructive and hostile. “It may not seem like it but my character does have the capacity to care,” said Rehman, defending his character. “His way of showing interest however, is different.”
“In this play, I actually practiced what I learnt in acting school,” said Malika, who plays the role of Annette. “Such freedom and encouragement to explore your role, is hard to come across.” She also added that while her character may come off as rather shallow, it would be crucial to recognise the reasons why; analyse how the intricacies of her life unravel during the course of the play.
While Reza’s play received the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award for best new play, the cast is still anxious to see how the audience will respond to their performance. And since there were no sponsors available, the team organised the funds themselves — doubling their stake. “We struck some barter deals for the services we needed — exchanged a percentage of sales, for the venue,” said Malik.
Published in The Express Tribune, September 14th, 2012.
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