The National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) International Theatre and Music Festival is currently ongoing with several plays left to be enjoyed. The past weekend saw a Nepalese adaptation of Shakespeare’s Hamlet. Helmed by England-based director Gregory Thompson, Hamlet could have been an incredible experience but failed to be one. And it wasn’t because of the director or the team’s efforts not being up to the mark, but rather on the part of Napa.
As the language of the play was Nepalese, the audience needed subtitles to understand. And the subtitles were projected on the wall high near the stage lights on the ceiling. That resulted in two issues: firstly, if the audience were to read subtitles looking all the way up, it distracted them from the performance on stage.
Secondly, the subtitles were not even bright enough and positioned properly to be clearly read, therefore the dialogue-to-dialogue progress of the play was lost for most of the audience. In fact, several people even walked out of the performance because of the issue. The front wall which limited the stage space could have been a better option for projecting subtitles. But one must not judge the play because of the technical issue on part of the management.
Judging by the performances, Hamlet succeeded in bringing Shakespeare to life. The opening scene comes to mind when I think about the play’s memorable moment. From ominous ‘Ram Ram’ chants to the oncoming funeral on the stage, which comically transitions into a wedding, it was a brilliantly executed sequence, which was only handicapped by lack of subtitles. Still with its technical difficulties, the performances were strong enough to convey emotions to a clueless audience. And those who were more familiar with the great English playwright’s work followed the narrative thread loosely and could understand and appreciate the Nepalese troupe’s work.
“It’s amazing how people everywhere around the world appreciate arts, theatre and human stories,” director Thompson told The Express Tribune. “And to be able to bring a company from Nepal to Pakistan and for people to follow the story, despite the issues with the subtitles, was really beautiful.”
He added that Hamlet was staged because the play’s English adaptations were touring around the world due to Shakespeare’s 400th death anniversary. “The Globe Theatre were touring to every country in the world and they went to Nepal. So, they asked me to direct a Nepalese Hamlet.” Regarding bringing it to Pakistan, Thompson said the intention was to do something whose story pulled the people along.
Actor Salman Shahid, who was in attendance, said he liked the execution of the play. “It was a very minimalist play, done with very few effects. If you knew the story well enough, it was quite enjoyable.”
Asked whether human emotion was conveyed to the general audience, Shahid added, “If you are coming to watch a Shakespeare adaptation, you should know at least something about the play, just like when you go to an opera. You can’t be totally clueless about it.”
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