Although Shakespeare has been done to death both across the globe and at NAPA, an independent production of Hamlet in Sindhi by Paradox Productions in Karachi, opened up the words of the Bard to a whole new audience.
ith a simple set and less than 15 performers, Shehzado Beh-ram is the story of a son grieving his father’s death and then seeking revenge. The play had a two-day run and was staged at NAPA on August 26 and 27.
With classic Shakespearean overtones of grief, morality, ven-geance, and a narrative questioning the idea of sanity and the futility of violence and war, this Sindhi adaptation translated by Mirza Khalich Baig, directed by Vajdaan Shah and produced by Shahjahan Narejo is a brave attempt to celebrate the universality of classic Shakespearean theatre, and make it more accessible to a Sindhi-speaking audience.
The lighting and sound design in one scene was the most noteworthy element of the production, especially when Behram (Hamlet played by Vajdaan Shah) sees his father’s ghost in the sky on a full moon night. Most productions have the ghost appear on stage as an actual character, but this was subtly done with the moving shadowy figure and a ghostly voice coming offstage through the moonlight, which is a bit of design chicanery that transformed the scene in the most surreal manner.
The costumes were a mix of traditional Pakistani clothes with Sindhi textile motifs. A special shoutout to stellar performances by supporting characters: Shehr-bano (Ophelia played by Qainat), Qamarunissa (Gertrude played by Samina Seher) Wali Chandiyo sings melodiously in Sindhi and doubles as the Nataki (drama troupe) and gravedigger. Baig’s poetic translation to Sindhi of Shakespeare’s piercing lines, done in 1923, was a treat for audiences to hear.
This production of Shehzado Behram beckons more support for regional theatre in languages other than Urdu or English. It could most definitely benefit from better marketing as it can be enjoyed by those who have a fondness for Shakespearean theatre regardless of their fluency in Sindhi.
The writer is an Assistant Professor at IVS and can be reached at email@example.com