Six years ago, when theatre actor Corinne Jaber travelled to Afghanistan, she never knew that she would end up having a long-standing relationship with the country. Her interaction with Afghani actors and a close study of the strife-torn nation prompted her to set up a theatre company Rah-e-Sabz. Over the last six years, the company has staged three productions.
The troupe staged Komedy-e-Eshtebahat, based on William Shakespeare’s Comedy Of Errors at Prithvi Theatre on May 19. It will present the same production at the Globe To Globe Festival in London on May 30. Komedy-e-Eshtebahat is among the 37 international productions, which have been commissioned to be staged at the festival.
The interesting aspect of the play is that it will be performed in Dari with English subtitles so that global audiences can understand it. “Though the Globe suggested other serious plays, the actors weren’t keen to act in a tragedy play since they hail from a strife-torn country. I chose Comedy Of Errors because the actors loved the story,” says Jabar.
“In the play, a father comes looking for his son, which is a theme that seems to be borrowed from real life. Afghanistan has had 25 years of strife, and people constantly look for their lost ones,” she adds. Aside from changing the setting from Greece to Kabul and giving the characters Afghani names, Jaber hasn’t altered the story.
The troupe, which was supposed to perform at the British Council in Kabul, had a narrow escape after the venue was bombed in August last year. The incident prompted Jaber to move to Bengaluru with her cast and crew this April. She says, “It’s difficult to rehearse in Aghanistan, as actors have to be away for long intervals due to personal issues. So I had to conduct workshops with my actors to inculcate the discipline that is a pre-requisite for theatre. Since we were slated to perform in Bengaluru in April, I though it would be a good idea to rehearse at Nityagram, as it propagates the gurukul culture where everyone lives and works together.”
Only two of the actors in Komedy-e-Eshtebahat have worked with Jaber in her earlier productions. The actor-director, who stays in France and has a mixed lineage (her father is Syrian and mother is German), interacts with her cast through these two senior actors. “They are the only ones who know English. So they usually translate whatever I want to say to the others.”
Jaber confesses that working with the actors has been an uphill task. “The actors in all the Rah-e-Sabz productions keep changing. Several restrictions are imposed on women. One of them fled to Canada after her husband was killed while the other escaped to Iran due to personal issues. It was a logistical nightmare to get the entire cast together. But I’m happy with the way the production has shaped up.”
“I have been oscillating between happiness and anxiety every day. But on a personal level, it has been a moving experience. Earlier, as a professional, I was more of an actress. But after setting up Rah-e-Sabz, I have grown as a director and learnt how to deal with people,” she feels.