Khoka Natak returned this spring semester with fresh vigour, its first performance embodying all the comic energy of Patras Bokhari’s short story, ‘Cinema Ka Ishq’. The series, created and curated by Waqas Manzoor, has so far enjoyed three well-received performances. Unlike its previous counterparts, this performance, owing to the rainy weather, had a last-minute venue change and took place at the SSE entrance.
For its fourth performance, the Khoka Natak troupe was composed of faces both new and old. Playing the leads were Jawwad Ghulam as the protagonist, and Syed Murtaza as Mirza Sahib. Javeria Kamran served as the narrator, luring the audience in that evening with exaggerated hand swipes and an engaging telling, while Waqas Manzoor, Hammad Bilal, Esrah Faisal and Maroof played the comical cinema audience. Combined, Javeria’s wonderful narration, Murtaza and Jawwad’s well-rehearsed, easy, witty back-and-forth, and the rest of the performers’ animated, silly movements, all hit home with its quintessentially desi humour, while retaining the nuances of a theatrical performance.
From the sidelines, the SSE entrance provided a visually clean interface between the audience and the performers; a large, wooden frame, twined with colorful stripes of crepe paper, created a clear, neat divide between the actual audience and the theatrical one, where earlier this had been done by containing the performance within a ring of flowers, coal mounds, or candles. Noticeably, the change in venue altered the atmosphere of the performance; in conversation later, Hammad Bilal, one of the performers from that evening, explained that the SSE entrance was where the first three Khoka Natak rehearsals had taken place, and that since all performances had room for improvisation, the versatility of their performative medium accounted for the ease with which they handled the venue change. On a more technical note, Hammad went on to add, “There’s a great amount of exposure [at the SSE entrance], performance-wise, and there are fewer obstacles in comparison to the khoka. Also, the voice carries farther, so less voice throw is required. Since this wasn’t my first time performing there, it was kind of like home base.”
Khoka Natak is set to return on the 14th of February with its next performance, with a total of six performances scheduled for Spring Semester 2019.