ISLAMABAD: The rave reviews from Karachi and Lahore made the overzealous Islooites throng past the locked doors of Sangam Hall at Margalla Hotel to watch Mohammed Hanif’s The Dictator’s Wife on Wednesday at the Islamabad Literature Festival.
The play, which begun late, opened with a stampede, with members of the audience elbowing each other while making their way to secure seats, while at the same time, fanning off the heat with event flyers.
After another 15 minutes, actor Nimra Bucha sashayed down the cramped passageway, walking towards the stage while balancing a cake with a candle lit on top of it, amid whistles and applause. Clad in a flowy silk dress with her hair falling down her shoulders, Bucha lamented the late start of the play.
Turning down requests to use a microphone, Bucha exclaimed, “If you cannot hear me, you are old.” She invited whoever could not hear her onto the stage and an excited member of the audience hurried towards the bed placed on the stage, but was stopped.
The Dictator’s Wife, which is written by Bucha’s husband Hanif, is a satirical play targeting the army. The story describes what the life of an ambitious army general is like. The biting satire comes from the man who has also written A Case of Exploding Mangoes and is also critical of the army.
The first scene opens in the bedroom of the dictator, with Bucha sitting beside a mannequin clad in a general’s jacket festooned with medals. She narrates how she married him when he was a captain in the army, although she wanted to marry someone in the foreign service. Although she’s living the glamourous life of a powerful general’s spouse, she detests every bit of it. She is spiteful, fiery and has a wounded soul. She remembers how on their first anniversary, the general did not give her a present, but on their 34th anniversary, he bought her 5,000 roses.
Bucha shone in her one-woman show. She progressed from one act to the next determinedly. As the cosmopolitan first lady, she managed to look glamorous and kept the tempo high till the very end.
The play, which made passing references to dictators in the past, had an ample dose of military jargon coupled with biting commentary. Was it worth the wait? “Definitely,” said an audience member, who was on his way out.
Published in The Express Tribune, May 4th, 2013.
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