What if your first true love was someone you’d been told to hate? Madly in love but ripped apart by the bitter divisions of their parents, two young people risk everything to be together. Romeo and Juliet, the infamous story of love at first sight explodes with intense passion and an irresistible desire for change. This play about young love and old rivalries has lived on for centuries, but it still grips you when you are watching it live in theatre.
Theatre is one of the most under-appreciated forms of arts that thrive on the hard work and drive of passionate individuals. Performing arts is rigorous, challenging and demanding as it leaves little to no room for error, which is why this talent remains unparalleled. And one seldom comes by personalities who are equally brilliant on and off the stage, Zia Mohyeddin is one of them. Whether it’s acting, hosting, recitation or direction, he has become somewhat of a final authority in these mediums.
This celebrated thespian returns to direction with William Shakespeare’s ‘Romeo and Juliet’ at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA). Directed by Zia, the play has been translated into Urdu by Khalid Ahmed. The cast features a mix of seasoned theatre performers and some new faces, with the titular characters being played by NAPA alumnus and currently enrolled students, Noreen Gulwani as Juliet and Ali Sher as Romeo. Other members of the include Fawad Khan, Bakhtawar Mazhar, Farhan Alam, Aqeel Ahmed, Zarqa Naz, Samhan Ghazi, Rahil Siddiqui and Amir Naqvi.
The play opens with an action-packed scene in the city of Verona. Two wealthy families, the Montagues and the Capulets, are having another brawl. The Prince and the townspeople cannot cope with the constant fighting so the Prince declares that the next person to break the peace will be killed. Romeo Montague and his friends gatecrash a Capulet party, where Romeo meets Juliet Capulet. He falls in love with her instantly. However, they are shocked to discover they are sworn enemies due to their feuding families. But will this love between these young lovers spark a revolution or will division continue to tear through generations?
Everything from the set design, lighting, costumes, dialogues and characterisation, and even the ballroom dancing was impeccable and justified the centuries-old script. Khalid Ahmed, as always, intelligently incorporated the original script into the Urdu adaptation. There were many memorable performances in the play. The leading duo Ali Sher and Noreen Gulwani stayed true to their characters and all its nuances. Fawad Khan as Mercutio made his presence felt on-stage which had the audiences thoroughly entertained. Performances by Rahil Siddiqui as Benvolio, Bakhtawar Mazhar as an’na and the comic relief that came from Muhammad Arsalan’s Peter were also enjoyable to watch.
The final scenes had the audience at the edges of their seats. Even though, many knew the end, it still gripped the audience until the end as they went through the emotions. It was evident with the play’s execution that the makers did not take any small detail for granted. Apart from the brilliant acting and beautiful set design, it is an experience one mustn’t miss out on.