In Karachi, good theatre is hard to come by, especially when one looks for literate entertainment. Olomopolo Media dared to achieve this feat. It is an interdisciplinary cultural and social enterprise that specializes in the design, production, advocacy, and training of performing arts and visual media. As a performing arts hub based in Lahore, it brought the same to Karachi when it was staged at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in Zia Mohyeddin Theatre from 26 to 28 August 2022. “Both Sit in Silence for a While,” written, directed and co-produced by Ali Junejo and Rasti Farooq – who also doubled as actors – was well-received by the audience as it was graced with a full house each day it was performed.
As we seat ourselves, the play begins with both the stars at the kitchen table. The couple, played by Ali Junejo and Rasti Farooq, are rigid in their own stance when we find both in conflict. An amusing stage production of grief, love and loneliness, the argument builds on the premise as to who will be responsible for the daughter, as the couple has decided to part ways. Continuing on the same tangent of the clash, we find that Rasti is not ready to give up her life and ambitions as motherhood takes a lion’s share of her time. On the other hand, Ali is faced with mental health issues as he is fighting his own battle with depression. Maneuvering through the verbal skirmishes, we find that he is seeking help from a psychiatrist, Sophia. Both agree on the fact that the couple’s marriage is dysfunctional and unhomely for raising a happy, confident child. As the story unfurls, we are taken to a flashback of the couple’s history, which hints at various facts, depicting that both weren’t willing, emotionally or financially, to commit to each other, and more so to raise a child, especially one born out of wedlock. The hour-long argument results in a decision, where they agree on putting up their daughter for adoption, to provide the latter with an environment conducive to a child’s social and mental development.
The short and crisp dialogue kept the audience entertained. By and large, the play was a realisation that behind proverbial closed doors, we are all desperately trying through life
As much as these conversations happen behind closed doors, the play was a wry, compassionate, and relatable retelling of every household. Relationships can often be extremely painful, emotionally draining, and realistically uncomfortable — even though we may cherish them greatly, held by delicate threads of love and emotion. It is much more than fanciful dreams. It is about responsibility, compromise, and building on each other’s ambitions – all of which Rasti and Ali were not willing to take on their plates. As a person who is in a long-term relationship myself, I often wonder how other couples operate privately because I know that my partner and I act differently when we’re alone as opposed to how we act out in public. We fight (a lot), we disagree, we argue, we get heated, we contemplate, we make mistakes, and we eat cold inedible pizzas to get over it.
So, when the stage opened to Rasti and Ali, I could relate to everything! Sometimes relationships are unpleasant and one doesn’t want to deal with them. And sometimes they are so satisfying that you never want them to end. Rasti and Ali found both – at different points in time and different times in their lives – that did not happen to coincide with other milestones in life, especially when we see both of them being held together when one brings food for the other; or when Rasti accidently burns her finger and Ali gets ice for her, when they make lemonade for one another, or when both of them type out a message calling for adoption. These are tiny moments holding them together, yet both of them fall apart in the larger picture. Brimming with an emotional force which was a dominant element, and a pinch of humour, “Both Sit in Silence for a While” was a true depiction of the struggles of the millennials.
Moving to the technical crew, the set design, which was a mildly-lit island table was an appropriate visual that allowed the couple to fittingly move in the space. Both the actors were on spot as their expressions exuded a lot of effort and courage required by the script, capturing the essence of the characters precisely. Both were unbelievable but in all the right ways.
Speaking about addressing these societal disorders, Rasti Farooq stated, “The agenda of the play was not at all to create awareness of such issues and we, Ali and I, didn’t target a particular audience while building on the story or rehearsing it or positioning it as a piece of writing advocating these issues. On the contrary, it was a simple story about two beings, living through these overwhelming emotions and human experiences as their long-term relationship is coming undone when they realize that they aren’t able to coexist peacefully. Both are in so much pain because they have run out of patience – both are in a place of resentment, something that completely crumbles the foundations of a relationship. And they are trying to grapple with its reality. At any point in life, we have all been there. We’ve read about it. We’ve seen it – relationships falling apart, despite a lot of love and care. The play is more about how people respond to such situations and the fact that it is completely human to feel this way.”
The short and crisp dialogue kept the audience entertained. By and large, the play was a realisation that behind proverbial closed doors, we are all desperately trying through life. Sometimes we feel like giving up, breaking up, and throwing it all away.
But we don’t have to.