La Cage Aux Folle: When even Begum Nawazish lets you down

La Cage Aux Folle’s strong star cast couldn’t save the overall quality of the production.

Rafay Mahmood February 24, 2012


The fact that there are no retakes to conceal your weak acting skills and no lens to airbrush your looks, makes theatre a much tougher medium to act on as compared to television or film. As a result, an actor keeps feeling the pangs of anxiety right till the end of the performance because no matter how big a cinematic icon you are, a minor glitch can break your performance for that night.

These facts were conveniently shut out by the makers of “La Cage Aux Folle” on the play’s media night on Thursday. Based on the 1973 French play of the same name by Jean Poiret, the script revolves around a homosexual couple: Georges and his celebrity-romantic partner Albin (Zaza) and what happens when George’s son, Jean Michel, brings his fiance’s conservative parents home.

Directed by Osama Kazi and Salma Mir, the cast of the play includes Ali Saleem, Ottoman Ali Khan, Faizaan Ahab, Ajlal Shah, Zarmina Yousaf, Steve Michael Fitzpatric, Hamza and Nadia Syed.

The most commendable actor of the night was Shah, who despite being an average dancer, still managed to essay his character with utmost comfort and dexterity. Ahab on the other hand, played the homosexual butler (Jacob), stole most of the scenes in spite of very few dialogues. Khan, who played the character of Georges, is a seasoned theatre actor and was able to reflect his experience in his acting.

However, keeping the acting credits aside, the play as a whole was disappointing and had big loopholes to fill in the departments of lighting, choreography, acting and above all, stage management (because mopping the floor before throwing a spotlight on it doesn’t require supernatural creative thinking, but it could eliminate the odd moments where the dirty stage distracts the audience). The beauty of the craftily designed set, with a breathtaking mini Eiffel tower made of small light bulbs was also ruined by the uncoordinated stage runners.

Ali Saleem disappoints

Ali Saleem, who is a household name by now and a seasoned theatre actor, couldn’t draw that fine line between TV and stage. His delivery was crisp but the performance was not engaging at all. Saleem’s body movements were too slow to portray the role of a dancer and many times one felt that he should have been more animated on stage to get the desired response. Sadly, most of his antics were either too ordinary or too similar to what he does as Begum Nawazish Ali.

Either the audience is too tired of Saleem acting as a cross-dresser or the director sacrificed quality for a strong star cast.

A thousand apologies

After the show ended, the whole cast and crew gathered on stage where the co-producers of the show Waqas Bukhari and Usama Qazi gave a public apology.

“We apologise for the technical faults that have happened but we couldn’t help it as the large number of people were in our support staff but ActOne (dance and fitness centre), which was our partner, backed out at the eleventh hour,” said Bukhari who has produced other commercially successful shows like “Bombay Dreams” and “Moulin Rouge”.

However, the team, which was obviously feeling betrayed by their creative partner, tried to end the show on a positive note as Bukhari concluded, “Despite the fact that ActOne has even filed a lawsuit, the show must go on and the show will go on.”

Published in The Express Tribune, February 25th, 2012.


Sumaira | 9 years ago | Reply

I saw Le cage aux fall and thought it wasn't that bad. Knowing that the production was from Islamabad I didn't know what to expect, but quite honestly, after watching the show I can predict that in a few years time Lush could be at par with Nida Butt Productions. Big players like her should lend a helping hand to these new comers, maybe even hold workshops to teach them some of the basics of stage. Honestly, the performers were lovely and showed so much potential. So far theater enthusiasts in small cities only have movies to learn and borrow from. Given time and guidance they can be spectacular! A big salute to them for trying to put on a decent show despite having all odds stacked against them.

Jamal | 9 years ago | Reply

ActOne is one of the most prestigious Art centres here in Karachi and the work they do is amazing. It's disheartening to learn that someone would lie to them even after a mutual agreement. It's shameful that the producers went on stage blaming ActOne whereas it wasn't even their fault. These people have no integrity. Shame on them!

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