William Shakespeare : The bard in Urdu, from Lahore to London

Published: May 3, 2011
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Rehearsals underway for The Taming of the Shrew for London 2012 Olympics.

Rehearsals underway for The Taming of the Shrew for London 2012 Olympics.

LAHORE: 

The director and lead actors for the Urdu version of The Taming of the Shrew, which will be staged by a Pakistani troupe at Shakespeare’s Globe theatre in London next year, have been selected and the rest of the cast and crew is also coming together.

The theatre is planning a six-week run of Shakespeare’s 38 works in 38 languages as a celebration of the London 2012 Olympic games. It will kick off on April 23, the bard’s birthday.

The Taming of the Shrew is likely to be performed twice in Lahore before the cast and the crew set out for London in May next year, said Nadia Jamil, who will play the female lead Katherine. She added that they were hoping to also stage the play elsewhere in London besides the Globe.

“I have always wanted to play Katherine. She is a strong-willed woman. Her character’s transition from being a shrew to conforming to societal norms demonstrates startling social similarities between 16th century Britain and the Pakistan of today,” she said.

She said three Pakistani teams had competed to win the honour of staging the play in Urdu. The winner was selected by a Globe committee. “It was really tough,” Jamil said. “We had to make presentations about how we would execute the project. I wrote them a letter and sent CDs of what I though was my best work as an actress.”

After they were selected, the team brought in Roshaneh Zafar as producer and Naveed Shehzad as director. Umair Rana was selected as the male lead, Petruchio, because of his vast theatre experience, said Jamil. She added that Salman Shahid would play the part of Baptista, Katherine’s father.

“Her understanding of Shakespeare and grasp of Urdu is remarkable. She is perhaps the only director that can get the actors to do justice to their characters,” Jamil said of Shehzad.

Shehzad said she was auditioning young actors for the remaining roles and holding rehearsals. “Some very young and very talented men and women have auditioned. Through this play, I want the world to see that there is great theatre activity going on here,” she said.

Asked how the play was relevant to Pakistani society, she said great literature was always relevant. “Women are treated as men’s property here. The play deals with elements that make Katherine a shrew and later it is her husband who gives her a hard time and hence he becomes the shrew,” she said.

She said the translation of the play into Urdu was continuing and would likely be finished by July. The play would be ready to be staged by February 2012. The troupe plans two performances at the Alhamra open-air theatre in Lahore in or after March. “Once in England we will have no time to rehearse. We need a full-dress rehearsal and a performance here will be good.”

Shehzad said the cast and crew were only concerned with putting on a good performance. “It is not a big budget. No one has even asked how much they will be paid. We are not concerned about the money. We are concerned about putting a good act together and earning Pakistan the applause it deserves.”

Published in The Express Tribune, May 1st, 2011.

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