The darkness on stage is interrupted by the flickering of a dim light before Sahra Huby begins scurrying between carefully-placed wooden boxes. The light begins to chase her as she struggles to make her way out. She fails. The light is now brighter than before, outlining the boxes that signify a surreal skyline. The soundtrack gets louder, forcing the chatter among the audience to die down.
This was the opening act of Chipping, a play put together by a troupe of German actors. Friday night at Karachi’s National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) saw the team stage the play as part of the ongoing third International Theatre & Music Festival. Featuring Huby in a titular role, the play originally premiered at the Munich Kammerspiele in 2014.
The only thespian to bring a dance performance to the festival, director Anna Konjetzky said she was “glad to be here” and stage the play for a largely Pakistani audience. “It [Chipping] is a play that symbolises the flood of information, the fight for space and sometimes even the fight for survival in urban areas,” Konjetzky told The Express Tribune.
Stage set for International Theatre Festival at NAPA
Of different shapes and sizes, the boxes were moved with the help of small motors that were installed on either side of the stage. As Huby tries to escape, they serve as barriers, alluding to haphazard construction in urban spaces. The struggle for dominance between humans and the monstrosity underscored the entire performance. “The boxes represent almost everything ... society, people. They’re subject to interpretation,” Huby said after the performance.
According to Konjetzky, sound design played a fundamental role in creating the right atmosphere and building up the tension. The perfected timing was the result of several rehearsals with the soundtrack’s Berlin-based composer, Brandon Dockasy. When asked about Chipping’s overarching theme, Konjetzky said, “Room and space.”
While most of the attendees remained focused and silent throughout the performance’s runtime, there were some people who surrendered to their phones within minutes.
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A small group of four or five came in late and left early. As the storyline came full circle towards the end of the play, the rather intimidated audience broke into a heartening applause, with some of them giving a standing ovation.
Visa issues: Indian thespians might not perform, yet again
Prior to the start of the World T20, the Board of Control for Cricket in India faced an uphill task in shape of convincing Pakistani authorities to allow Afridi and Co to participate in the tournament.
National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) seems to be faced with a similar situation as notable Indian troupes have still not arrived for the ongoing International Theatre & Music Festival, thanks to visa issues.
Talking to The Express Tribune, Napa Repertory Theatre artistic director Zain Ahmed said the organisers have already had to reschedule a few performances because of the delay. “As a last minute fix, we had to re-perform Zia Mohyeddin’s Khwabon Ke Musafir and Akbar Islam’s Khel Khel Mein,” he said.
According to the original schedule, Delhi-based theatre group Ilhaam Collective was scheduled to perform their play V2 at Napa on March 23 and March 24 but instead, visa troubles took centre stage at the event.
Taking head from last year, the academy had initiated the visa processes well in advance but the efforts bore little fruit. Ahmed said Napa has approached numerous government officials in this regard. “We have also spoken to everyone [at the embassy] but we haven’t received a response as yet,” he said.
Although Indian troupes Aasakta and Ujjagar Dramatic Association were supposed to close the festival on April 1 and April 2, if they are not able to make it in time, the organisers will be forced to conclude the festival two days before the set date.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 27th, 2016.
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