A review on Foreign Musical-Drama ensemble play, Playlist (2019). This play was performed at NAPA International Theatre Festival 2019.
- Written, Directed & Produced by A Collaboration
- Yusuf Kerai
- Shehroze Hussain
- Elmira Bahrami
- Ahsan Bari
Playlist is a collaborated Pakistani-German play which is performed in English and Urdu languages. In 2014, the US senate intelligence committee’s report on the CIA’s torture methods in American prison camps (Guantanamo Bay, Abu Ghraib, Bagram and many more), which shook the world on revealing the bizarre, inhumane ways of torture at these camps. One of these tortures were to listen to American pop songs (Playlist) played on a loop and at extremely high volume.
The similarity to the science behind the choice of these ‘Happy’ & ‘Bright’ songs instantly recalls me the British film, Clockwork Orange (1971) where the protagonist was forced to watch and listen to the selected scenes & songs by the psychologists / scientists that were kept played in loop to the prisoners who were handpicked chosen for their strange experiments. Perhaps the psychologists in real life were inspired by this film.
Playlist depicts humans’ one of the most tragic and unspeakable acts of tortures on the face of this world. For making this play possible, the support of the international co-production fund of the Goethe Institute, Be Globle funding and NAPA.
+ Full Cast
- Sunil Shankar as Prisoner#1
- Fawad Khan as Prisoner#2
- Joshinder Chagger as Narrator #1
- Jakob Weiss as Narrator #2
A musical production that is part investigation and part meditation on this abuse of music and human body & soul.
+ High Points
i – The tremendous efforts behind its collaborated direction and the treatment of the play successfully works its way out. The audiences were not only shocked but very moved by it. The question is not ‘What’ they are shown but ‘How’ it was shown as.
ii – Standing ovation performance given by the two veteran actors, Fawad Khan and Sunil Shankar. They are one of the ideal actors to perform this dark play in the shape of reenactment or a mere glimpse of the unimaginable horrors that occurred inside the facilities of different infamous US prison camps.
iii – The musical performance consisted of tablas, sitar, violin and guitar instruments with all four being the vocalists, were not only heart touching but gripping as well. It is beautifully composed with every scene and blends in with the performance easily.
iv – The usage of the lighting was limited and effective. At some places, the placement of the light was intended not to show the actors’ face clearly. It was kept partially covered in the shadow by using different lighting techniques, such as ‘Face Framed in Shadow’, ‘Split Lighting’ and ‘Chiaroscuro’. It usually depicts that character as ‘Hidden’ or the ‘Person with unknown history / origin / motives’. But in this play, it showed them simply as ‘Subjects’, where their lives didn’t matter. This is what the facility makes their prisoners as. The two characters were kept mostly in darkness, with the light fallen on their faces only slightly.
v – The creativity behind every step the character takes, every move the director made and the numerous ways the victims’ body is shown being torture horribly on-stage. All this worked out brilliantly, without the use of visuals in depicting the explicit torture sessions. Most of the different torture scenes were briefly described only but not shown. As its depiction is beyond human’s imagination and sane mind to bear. This was a notable & clever call by the team to leave for the spectators to use their imagination instead.
vi – The symbolic body movements and the hidden gestures made by the performers during their torture scenes would haunt the audience till their very memories.
vii – Even though the script is limited as most of the performance is silent. The hope for unity and freedom against any unjust and evil doers is spoken during the torture session are very emotional, tragic and plays closer to the heart.
viii – Since the subject is dark & sensitive, therefore there was no need for the production design. A limited number of props were shown in certain scenes only. The focus of attention of the audience was required at the two characters.
ix – God! I can never listen to the title song of Sesame Street the same way ever again! This is the beauty of it. It is how real the play was presented and performed as. It made the audience felt for it.
x – The costume design is purposely used in black and uniformed state… similar to the theme of this play.
+ Low Points
i – These kinds of plays are for certain targeted audience only.
ii – Most of the people would prefer watching this play, once in a lifetime.
Terrifying, shocking and difficult to digest, Playlist offers a haunting insight to the inexplicable form of extreme torture testimony of humanity’s most shameful acts of power abuse.
Rate: 4.50 out of 5 stars