There’s something very ‘literate’ about going to the theatre to watch a play. Perhaps it’s the association we have with Shakespeare and stage traditions that take us as far back as the Greeks. It may be the association of ideas, of being well read and coming from a generation that enjoyed and actually read books; there is some sort of snobbery that divides those who are well read and those who are not. Truth is that theatre, of the literary kind at least, is a diminishing (if not dying) art and therefore it’s always refreshing to see something unexpected pop up on stage. Even if it’s something as small and short as the two-day performance of Agatha Christie’s The Mousetrap, performed by Gaslight Company at the Arts Council Karachi on Monday and Tuesday.
A simple production, with a total seven characters, The Mousetrap brought to Karachi the British classic that has been running at London’s West End since 1952. A murder mystery that brings five random travelers to a newly set-up guest house called Monkswell Manor, the story opens with the murder of one Maureen Lyon (who’s murder is introduced by a gunshot and a news brief on the radio) and the gradual assembly of the guests, who are complete strangers and amongst them all, one is the murderer.
A simple production, the two-hour performance brought one thing centre-stage: there certainly are solid actors amidst the young generation out there. Aryaan Aslam, playing the nervous, excitable and oddly energetic Christopher Wren, brought some much needed energy and pace to the play. Saif Leonardo Tariq Quraishi as the swaggering Mr. Paravicini had the right amount of mystique to draw suspicion to his character; the slightly exaggerated accent and the makeup made to deliberately make him look older all pointed to a conman in disguise. Asfandyar Khan as Sergeant Trotter, with his suspicions and interrogations, also introduced elements of intrigue to the play. The entire cast helped in bringing the story to its conclusion though it has to be said that the pace and energy could have been quicker and higher.
One thing I have to say is that the play would also have done better without the use of microphones. The beauty of theatre is to have actors with strong vocals; they need to be able to throw their voice and be heard through the auditorium, which in this case was compact enough to not need the electronic aids. The sound system wasn’t the best, which meant that some characters could be heard louder than others and with some of them knowing they would be heard because of the mics, they didn’t even try to inject energy into their acoustics.
It was, nevertheless, a promising start for a debut project.
“Gaslight Company is and always will be a passion project,” Azmeh Malik, Co-Founder Gaslight Company and Director/Producer of The Mousetrap said in an introduction. “Our aim with it was to create an energetic community which allows us to take risks and think outside the box. It is an avenue for quality theatre, for laughs, drama, adventure and entertainment.”
– All proceeds from the play have gone to Parents Voice Association
– Ujala Centre.