The ongoing International Theatre Festival at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) has been on a roll. With one exceptional performance after another during its last week, the organisers finally decided to take their feet off the accelerator and treat the audiences with some improvisational comedy.
Hosted by the emerging troupe Lol Waalay, the young line-up, including Akbar Chaudhry, Sannan Wastani, Zubair Tariq, Syed Osama and Syed Muhammad Kumail, gave a riveting performance. Breaking the fourth wall with their unique brand of comedy, they engaged the audience to make them feel like they are a part of the troupe.
Speaking to The Express Tribune, Chaudhry shared his experience of performing at Napa. “I am overwhelmed by the response we have received here, as this is our first time performing at Napa, and I was not expecting such a turnout,” he said. On why they opted for Lol Waalay to take the spot made vacant, following the late issuance of visas to Indian artists, Zain Ahmed, who is part of the festival’s organising committee, said, “Why not? Stand-up comedy is also a form of theatre.”
Lol Waalay’s routine appeared to be dictated by members of the audience. Through cues and catchphrases, the audience paved the way for the troupe’s witty jokes. This was most evident in the segment ‘What happens next?’, which follows a husband (Chaudhry), who suspects his talkative wife (Wastani) of having an affair behind his back with a domestic servant.
Another segment that required audience participation was ‘What if they met?’ After randomly selecting and interviewing two people from the crowd, a female writer and a musician, on the stage in their usual quirky manner, Tariq and Osama assumed the roles of the boy and girl respectively, and acted out a real-life scenario, describing what would have happened if the two had actually met.
In an effort to keep up with the current trend of infusing popular culture references into their acts, Lol Waalay also jested at the Pakistani cricket team members in a show that lasted for an hour-and-a-half. Kumail, who played the role of a newscaster with a bipolar disorder, essayed the role of cricketers, such as Javed Miandad, Inzamamul Haq and Imran Khan.
Ahmed praised the troupe for their performance. “Not everyone possesses innate comic timing like they do and it is very difficult to teach such a thing,” he stated. The International Theatre Festival continued on Friday with Aabe Gum. The play by Mushtaq Ahmed Yusufi is a comical retelling of the story about people living in their past. The much-awaited Rajasthani play Kasomal Sapno will be performed on Saturday and Sunday.