Plays such as “Moulin Rouge” and “Bombay Dreams” by Shah Sharahbeel have contributed significantly to the new of wave theatre in Pakistan. With the right mix of masala and matter, these shows have managed to bring theatre aficionados back in the hall, a fact confirmed by the commercial success of Sharahbeel’s “Bombay Dreams”, presented in 2011.
However this time around, he is staging “Tom Dick and Harry” at the Karachi Arts Council and the half empty theatre hall — during the opening week — says a lot about the kind of response this play will be getting.
Karachi is the most lucrative market for theatre practitioners but Karachiites are slightly more difficult to impress. They won’t mind sitting on the floor to watch an outstanding performance, but if your product fails to impress them, then they hold no reservations in belittling you for an average, B-grade performance.
The latter was the case, unfortunately, with “Tom Dick and Harry”. The play had nothing unique to offer and relied heavily on director’s justifications and side performances to make it seem exciting.
Before the beginning of the play, Sharahbeel came on stage asked the audience to be patient for the first 20 minutes as the play might feel like a drag but in actuality it really isn’t. The announcement in itself seemed like a frail attempt to cover up the shortcomings of the production.
The play, which is an adaptation of Ray and Michael Conney production of the same name, is a comedy of errors about three brothers Tom, Dick and Harry Kerwood and is an insight into one of the most eventful days of their lives .Tom and his wife Linda are in the final stages of adopting a baby, when Dick returns from a smuggling trip with brandy, cigarettes and two illegal Sikh immigrants and Harry brings a chopped up cadaver to hide in the garden. The rest of the play, is a distasteful concoction of below the belt humour and tacky sexual innuendos, which at times became repetitive.
Weak casting, average standard of acting and overall a very loosely knit production, gave a bad name to one of the strongest theatre production banner in Pakistan. Mariam Ansari (Linda) in particular, with her inaudible voice and insignificant stage presence, failed to leave an impression on viewers.
This time around even the very well-known Saqib Sumeer derailed onto a tangent while playing the Sikh. Despite his brilliant acting, some of his gestures were offensive for older audience members, who were there for a family entertainment. In a nutshell the thin line between farcical comedy and vulgarity was crossed many times.
On the other hand, the actors who managed to impress with their acting prowess was Muneebur Rehman, who played Harry, and Mustafa Changazi who played the comparatively wiser brother, Tom.
However the most disappointing of it all, was the tribute to late tech genius, Arfa Karim. In the beginning of the play, the audience was told that the cast will sing a song for Arfa, but little did we know that the song would be as absurd as “Kolaveri Di”. A moment of silence would have been a much better option than the suggestive moves to “Kolaveri Di” that the cast offered in Arfa’s remembrance.
The play runs at the Karachi Arts Council every day at 8 pm till February 12.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 28th, 2012.