NAPA International Theatre Festival 2014: The Opening Act

After nearly a year of planning, amid fervour and gaiety, the much-awaited festival kicks off.

Scenes from Napa’s rendition of Kalidasa’s Shakuntala. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS


Zia Mohyeddin is an artiste who has remained in the limelight for so long that he has now started running away from it. And rightly so; after all, if he stays in public even for a moment, he never fails to attract a horde of people hailing from different generations.

But the National Academy of Performing Arts’ (Napa) big night — its first-ever theatre festival — made Mohyeddin come out of his comfort zone. He could be seen personally greeting people who were present at the inaugural day. The students and graduates were more excited than the faculty itself, running around the campus to ensure that every nitty-gritty is taken care of.

Zia Mohyeddin giving the opening speech at the inauguration ceremony of the festival. PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

“Today is just the beginning of a long and exciting journey. Let’s hope that we pull off all the plays with precision and minimum concerns,” Sunil Shankar, a Napa graduate who is involved with a couple of plays told The Express Tribune.

After nearly a year of planning and amid fervour and gaiety, the much-awaited Napa International Theatre Festival has kicked off.

Though the anticipated guest Naseeruddin Shah did not attend the ceremony, the Napa auditorium saw a full house with people from every walk of life present to embrace its literary treats.

At the ceremony, Zain Ahmed, who is the artistic director at the Napa Repertory Theatre (NRT), says, “Since the origin of theatre can be dated back to ancient Greece from the Western tradition, and to the subcontinent from the Eastern tradition, we will be opening the festival with a piece from both traditions.”

The event starts with an excerpt from Shakuntala, a story that is told in the Mahabharat and has been dramatised by the epic writer Kalidasa. The music of the performance was an interesting combination of eastern classical raags with a modern rock arrangement.

“We have tried to incorporate the quintessential Amir Khusran style in the starting Dua of our version of Shakuntala,” shares composer Ahsan Bari.

“It talks about the creation of life and how everything began from water and that is why I believe it is an appropriate piece to start the festival with. The long creative voyage has started today,” he adds.

The performance also involves a dance/movement piece in which different characters from Shakuntala can be seen re-enacting parts of the story through action and dance.

The night ends with a performance of the Greek tragedy Oedipus Rex, which is presented by the third-year students at Napa. While issues with the Urdu translation of the well-known play were evident, the students’ zeal and confidence in dramatising an arduous Greek tragedy is highly appreciable.

Scenes from Oedipus Rex.  PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

Six performances you shouldn’t miss at the NAPA International Theatre Festival 2014:

Princess & the Garden (March 8-9): Princess & the Garden is an adaptation of Rabindranath Tagore’s short play Malini. It is being presented by Theatre Village, a troupe from Nepal that is known for their promising use of movements on stage. The troupe will be doing the play in Nepali, but promises to enchant you and convey the underlying theme of Buddhist ideology and monarchy just with their actions on stage. This one is certainly going to be interesting for all theatre enthusiasts. 

Stumped! (March 10-11): Stumped! is an unmissable play, especially when Pakistan’s cricket team is doing so well. An original Pakistani play written by Imran Yusuf (former Sports Editor of The Express Tribune) and translated by Fawad Khan (Napa alumnus), Stumped! is about cricket and the controversies surrounding the game. The play attempts to comment with subtlety on what would have gone through the minds of Salman Butt, Mohammad Amir and Mohammad Asif before the spot-fixing scandal, with a Shahid Afridi twist. If Pakistan ends up winning the 2014 Asia Cup, then watch it to celebrate its success. If not, watch it to give some thought to all those match fixing conspiracy theories.

Scenes from Oedipus Rex.  PHOTOS: AYESHA MIR/EXPRESS

Kuttay (March 16-17): Different Indian plays have been staged at Napa, but Kuttay stands out for its social commentary and theatrical treatment. Directed by Napa graduate Meesam Naqvi, the play focuses on the implications of dictatorship for a people. It is placed in a dictatorial era where an army of soldiers has conquered most of the city, but is waiting outside the last house. A starving man and his traumatised wife seek food assistance from the army. Instead, they are fed hollow promises and slogans. To make the play more relevant, Naqvi has shed light on some of the prevalent socio-political issues of Pakistan, which makes it a satire to look forward to. 

Eksod (March 20-21): Eksod by Brigel Gjoka from Germany seems like the most theatrically interesting and dynamic play of the festival. It is inspired by the Albanian movie Rrethi-i-Kujteses that talks about submission to a regime and its impact on the society. The interplay of music and dance is going to give us a much-needed break from the half-cooked and over-hyped musicals running at the Arts Council every day. 

Raddi Bazaar (March 22-23): The fact that its performers are graduates of the renowned National School of Drama in New Delhi naturally raises our expectations. Interestingly, Raddi Bazaar is a combination of three different Indian plays. This amalgamation of narratives is a gripping take on storytelling, especially since it will be combined with multimedia devices like video images. 

Blah and Blah (March 18-19): Blah and Blah is a contemporary dance drama written and directed by Sunil Shankar and Joshinder Chaggar. The play presents a combination of movement and dialogue that revolves around the concept of psychological emptiness and the yearning to find one’s true self. Since Shankar has previously presented masterpieces like Eqqus and Chaggar is one of the most well-known names of modern dance in Pakistan, you are definitely in for something exciting.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 6th, 2014.

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Anonymous | 7 years ago | Reply

Dear ET, I think it's time to re-check hiring policies because who on earth writes 'National Academy of Performing Arts’s (emphasis on Arts's) big night!' It's basic grammar. As a regular reader I have been noticing quite a lot of editing mistakes and that is not a good reflection of a successful English daily.

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