The World Shakespeare Festival & my experience of “The Taming of the Shrew”

The Olympics 2012 is almost around the corner and keeping in stride of all the celebrations, The Globe theatre in London are hosting a series of 37 plays by Shakespeare in multiple languages. I had the opportunity to attend this World Shakespeare Festival and watch the Urdu version of the famous play by Shakespeare –“Taming of the Shrew” which was held on the 26th of May 2012.

Now I must admit I wasn’t particularly interested in the play initially. Shakespeare’s plays have never really captured my interest as such. In truth I found them too dry and at times just too hard to muster at college, but my younger sister was adamant about going. She’s a huge fan of one of the actor’s –Osman Khalid Butt who is a famous you-tuber and theatre actor/director in Pakistan. He was playing the famous role of Hortensio or in this case Hasnat.

So we made our way down to Shakespeare’s globe that evening and stood among the crowd. It was a pleasant surprise to see such a vast amount of mixed nationalities among the expected Asian crowd. Since the play was completely in Urdu they must have understood quite a fair amount to have stayed for the complete duration.

The event has left me in awe of the Pakistani theatre and their superb performance and I doubt this article could do justice to the level of skill and talent they exhibited throughout the play. However I do aim to try, so sit back and read on. I hope you enjoy my feeble attempt at jotting down all that I encountered that night.

Shakespeare's Globe

Shakespeare’s Globe

The Globe has been built with an architecture similar to the Coliseum in Ancient Rome. The beautiful circular structure is designed so as to give a perfect view of the stage to the entire audience. There are three levels of seats for spectators as well as a large area for a fair amount of bystanders.

On this particular evening, the weather was warm and a cool breeze made the whole experience more enjoyable. The stage was set with a live traditional music band in the corner who played their instruments at appointed times during the entire performance. Since we (My younger sister, older brother and I) were at the lowest level of the theatre among the other onlookers, we got to be closest to the stage for the complete duration.

Shakespeare's Globe-The stage

Shakespeare’s Globe-The stage

The entire performance had me hooked right from the very beginning. As soon as    Kate or in this particular case ”Kiran” (Nadia Jamil) made her entrance, the whole  globe became as silent as a funeral home as her voice resonated across the walls of the theatre.

 Rustam (Omair Rana) & Kiran (Nadia Jamil)

Rustam (Omair Rana) & Kiran (Nadia Jamil)

The play was re-written and the dialogues were transformed (from the original version) so as to capture the audience’s attention, leave an impact as well as teach a lesson in a most ironic fashion. The idea in this play was to create a harmony between the husband and wife (Kiran & Rustam) rather than go with the domineering and authoritative way in which Shakespeare has originally portrayed the man. Instead of being crushed to obedience and acting as a “man’s property”, the shrew(Kiran) very proficiently manages to mould herself and changes her character after she is finally made to understand her worth by the cunning, caring and unique ways her husband(Rustam) has of approaching her. This banter between the two was one of the most humorous aspects of the entire play.

Rustam and Kiran in-action-Epic performance

Rustam and Kiran in action-Epic performance

Each dialogue was delivered to the highest level of perfection, and all the actors worked well together. A particular favourite of mine was Omair Rana (Rustam) and it was a pleasure to see him perform right before my eyes. The degree to which he was absorbed inside his role left little to be asked for.

The play was directed well and I applaud Hassaim Hussain for all his hard work and effort. There was a lot to be admired ranging from all the traditional colourful costumes which did complete justice to the Pakistani culture, right down to the very delivery which each actor managed to exude with a commendable amount of precision.

Rustam,Qazim(one of Bina's admirer's) and the hilarious old man(with the farting problem)who's name I cant seem to remember!

Rustam,Qazim(one of Bina’s admirer’s) and the hilarious old man(with the farting problem)who’s name I cant seem to remember!

Another angle of the magnificent Stage

Another angle of the magnificent Stage

The best part was when the actors would suddenly pop out through the back doors behind the audience, make their way through the crowd and finally continue their act up on the stage. Ravi (Maria Khan) had us all laughing our heads off as she wound her way in and out of the crowd shaking a basket full of chick peas shouting “Channay khaanay hain?” (Would you like some channay?)

Ravi(Maria Khan) and her comical performance

Ravi(Maria Khan) and her comical performance

The band was well-coordinated. The swish of the colourful fabric which made up Kiran’s costume as she danced and swayed back and forth across the stage in complete harmony with the sound of the flute was breathtakingly beautiful.

It was a moment of pride for all Pakistani’s to see an Urdu performance in one of the most famous theatre’s in England. The play started at 7.00 p.m. as scheduled and lasted for three hours with a twenty-minute interval at 9.30 p.m. and finally ending at 10.30 p.m. amid a huge amount of applause and cheers from the audience.

The complete cast

The complete cast

All in all, the three of us had a wonderful night.

Taken right after we dragged ourselves out at 11.00p.m

Taken right after we dragged ourselves out at 11.00p.m

We even managed to stay back after the performance, meet Omair Rana and Osman Khalid Butt as well as get a couple of pictures taken with each one, which have left my friends regretting they missed it!

For a complete review of play’s story line you can look here:

Globe to Globe: The Taming of the Shrew, Shakespeare’s Globe

The Taming of the Shrew – review