English playwright Ray Cooney’s longest running play in London is now being staged at the Arts Council Karachi by Lush, an Islamabad-based troupe.
Run For Your Wife is a farcical and nonsensical comedy about a taxi driver John Smith (Zahid Ahmad) who leads the life of a bigamist in London. His first wife Mary Smith (Amy Saleh) is a simpleton, the second is the young and vivacious Barbara Smith (Sundas Tariq). Things are well in both the households until John meets an accident trying to save a lady from thugs. While admitted in hospital, he shares his postal address with the staff. When he is taken to the police station, he gives out another residential address. Following his mysterious absence, John’s wives start searching for their husband -- there begins the roller-coaster ride for John whose life is now all about maintaining the right version of the mishap depending on who he’s talking to. Throughout the police are trying to figure where the real John Smith lives.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Usama Qazi, producer and co-director of the play, said: “The actors are in between the framework of amateurs and professionals. They have been doing theatre for the past four or five years.”
The statement seems true for the leading actor Zahid Ahmad, who enacted the role of John Smith flawlessly. The performances of Amy Saleh and Sundas Tariq were equally commendable. Fendi Khan, who played Smith’s best friend Stanley Gardner, seemed to control the entire stage with his acting, often times superseding Zahid Ahmad.
Not to be forgotten is the comic, gay character of Bobby Franklyn played by Zarnab Rashid. Though he rarely appeared on stage, he thrilled everyone with his comic and exceedingly merry character. Other notable performances were of the detective, Sergeant Troughton played by Omar Saleem and the jovial detective Sergeant Porterhouse played by Ajlal Shah.
Directed by Salma Mir, the group roped in Ottomann Ali Khan for sound and lighting arrangements. Tanveer Abbas designed the set, which was a little confusing as the background had two sets, camouflaged into one big room.
Karachi welcomes Run For Your Wife
Usman Qazi is all applause for the welcoming treatment his play has received from the people of Karachi: “I’ve been overwhelmed with the response that I have received from Karachi… from the media to the audience.”
Comparing Karachiites to the people of Islamabad, Qazi said: “Karachiites seem to try to understand comedy and can take jokes. The people of Islamabad are very snobbish”. He further said: “Firstly, people in Islamabad do not purchase tickets for theatre. 90 per cent of them want to come through an invite. Karachiites, on the other hand, pay. Secondly, Karachi is a tremendous market. Thirdly, Islamabad is more bureaucratic, and Karachi things are fast paced. If you see it like this, Islamabad is like taking a morning walk in the park, Karachi is a marathon!”
Qazi further said that Karachi can become “a hub of theatre within the next five years if people continue to support performing arts.”
So what’s up next for Qazi: “To bring an Urdu musical to the audience, Urdu, is the way forward.”
Published in The Express Tribune, March 16th, 2011.
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