The roles of men and women, as set out by society over the ages have been the subject of controversy for as long as one could remember. While these roles have been called into question, society still adheres to them.
Exactly such a play was performed at the National Academy of Performing Arts this past Saturday evening. ‘A Doll’s House’ by Henrik Ibsen questions the roles of men and women within the bond of marriage in the 19th century.
Marriage was supposed to be a sacred, divinely ordained covenant and viewing it from the vantage point that Ibsen did was considered scandalous.
Ibsen was of the view that in modern society, a woman could not be herself as it was a totally male-dominated, male-chauvinist society, with laws framed by men, with the men as judges and prosecutors who interpreted feminine conduct from a masculine standpoint.
The play tells us that questioning of gender roles is nothing new as Ibsen wrote this play in the 1870s.
The play has been translated and adapted by noted theatre personality, Shoaib Hashmi, who has transposed the characters on the Karachi locale.
The production also explores a new technique whereby each character is performed by up to three actors on-stage simultaneously.
Many who belong to the orthodox school of theatre may not approve of it, or more than that, may not even be able to make head or tail of it. As such, in the final scene, we see five actors performing as Nora and five as her husband Trovald, changed to Ayesha and Asad in the Karachi locale.
While it may not make sense to many, the technique is a way of exploring the universality of issues and the different nuances presented by different actors. It is an innovation, indeed.
The choral portion of the play was expressive of real singing talent.
All the stars did a magnificent job and the one who stood out even among them was Erum Bashir as Ayesha. She performed her role in the most profound and effective of manner. The play was a musical and all the stars displayed real vocal talent with instrumental accompaniment by Sharjeel (guitar) and Jehangir (bass).
The play received its world premiere on December 21, 1879, when it was performed at the Royal Theatre in Copenhagen. In 2006, the centennial year of Ibsen’s death, the play held the distinction of being the world’s most performed play during that year.