Theatre alive with students
LGS stages another play Johnny and Dead and the performance was admirable
By Aamir Tariq
Students of Lahore Grammar School (Cantt) performed the play Johnny and the Dead by Terry Prachett. The performance that started on Feb 17 lasted three days. It was presented by Real Entertainment Productions (REP) and directed by Sanwal Tariq and Omair Rana.
The plot revolves around Johnny who goes through the cemetery as a shortcut to reach his home. His best friend, Wobbler, thinks it’s spooky but in the cemetery, Johnny meets Alderman Thomas Bowler (one of the dead). Johnny then realises that he can see, talk to, and hear the dead. Later, Johnny meets all the dead and the gang (including the dead) and goes on to discuss the council’s sale of Blackbury’s neglected cemetery to a faceless conglomerate that plan to build offices on it. With this in mind, Johnny speaks out at community meetings of the famous people buried there.
By the end of the play the council is forced to back down but the dead no longer care as the Day of Judgement comes. However, the town’s living residents have, thanks to the campaigning of Blackbury volunteers, rediscovered the cemetery as a link to their past. As one of the Dead puts it, “The living must remember, and the dead must forget”.
It was refreshing to see young boys and girls, their faces coloured white, interpreting not only Prachett but the life and times of someone as unconventional as Johnny. Therefore, the idea of performing ‘Johnny and the Dead’ was very admirable for students.
It was a pleasure seeing how these young actors presented this biting humour with such subtleness and ease. It was apparent from their presentation that they understood the social, emotional and historical background of the characters from the dead. Communist punch-lines of famous characters such as Stalin were appreciated. Though the play was done by a school and is ideal for a younger audience, it is exciting to note here that the attendance was fairly high all three days. On the last day of the show, around a hundred-fifty to two hundred people were present; most of them were parents of the participants and students from different branches.
Almost all the performers outdid themselves as the play required them to perform. However, Alderman Thomas Bowler played by Saad Basit and Wobbler played by Sarmad Butt were able to grab the viewers’ attention. Out of the minor characters, Ms. Ethel Liberty as Noor Ulain and Ayesha Bari as Mrs. Sylvia Liberty were also eminent with their stage presence. The scene in which all the characters talk about how Barney from the show, ‘How I met your mother’ was about to propose Robin was a particularly funny scene that grabbed everyone’s attention. On sharing her experience with TNS, Fatima Amjad, one of the spectators, went on to say, “It is remarkable to see a production house such as REP pulling off plays such as Dreams of Tipu Sultan, Durango, Life of Galileo and now Johnny and the Dead”. Yet the actor who added life to the entire play was Bisma Azhar who played Johnny. Her body language, timing and the ability to stay dedicated to her character was impeccable.
The play was a low-budget one but it was remarkable to see how well was the set utilised by the actors. The presence of a proper sound system was quite evident. Since the play took place in LGS 1-A/1, a state of the art auditorium was provided. However, credit has to be given to the dress of the characters which were in perfect sync. The make-up for the dead was very professional and didn’t give a fake look at all. It should be remembered that this play was performed by O’level students and that too for the first time for the AJR branch.
It was a pleasant surprise to see Mr. Sanwal Tariq direct this play and help the young lot with his directorial skills. Whether it was his exceptional performance in Odd couple as Oscar or his critically acclaimed acting in Captain Requiem, the man has proved his worth both on and off stage with performances such as ‘Catch a Chain’ and ‘Johnny and the Dead’. In an interview with TNS, Mr. Omair Rana said, “It was a pleasure working with such a great young lot who were so enthusiastic yet focused. I see immense talent in this young ex-JTite and a bright future’. All in all AJR did break a leg!