Theatre Ali Baba Chalis Chor
Doing theatre for children is an arduous task. Other than an engaging script and a lively performance, what characterises theatre for children is its ability to nurture intellectual and artistic talent in the young ones.
It also plays a part in their personal development. Recently shown at the Karachi Arts Council, Ali Baba Chalis Chor could be termed a success only if its main objective were to make children laugh and nothing else. A production of Green Eye Production, the play was based on one of the classic Arabic folktales of “One Thousand and One Nights (
),” which is also known as the “Arabian Nights.” Directed by Umair Rafiq with narration by Zain Qureshi, Ali Baba Chalis Chor was first performed in ‘Bachpan Ke Rung,’ a theatre festival for children held at the National Academy of Performing Arts (NAPA) in Karachi.
This time, Ali Baba Chalis Chor was boastfully staged with a musical and comicalil ttwistit tto makek ththe mostt popularl childhood bedtime story an exciting, funbased play both for children and adults. And that’s where the trouble began. In the name of fun, the play ended up killing the centuries-old folktale, right from its beginning to the end and that too amidst deafening laughter and repeated clapping of the audience.
As things took place throughout the play, there was neither a real Ali Baba, nor were the infamous forty thieves, as it was merely a hotchpotch of different characters stolen from the original story. In the guise of Ali Baba Chalis Chor, the scriptwriter just hijacked the classic folktale characters to depict a distorted storyline meant to create some silly fun and nothing more.
From the very outset, the performers were pulling faces, turning themselves upside down, jumping and falling off the stage and simply clowning around to entertain the audience, particularly the young ones. If this is what was supposed to be shown to the children, the makers of the play could have produced a totally new story from scratch, instead of messing up with the original tale.
The good thing about the play was its ability to keep children involved throughout the show with some truly interactive performances. Faraz Ali as Babloo Al Bubblegum, Muneeb Baig as Ali Baba, Sehrish Qadir as Bhabhi, Shabana Hassan as Marjina and Aqeel Ahmed as Qasim took the audience on an hour-long mishmash of a baseless plot with rib-tickling fillers. This was all staged in the name of Ali Baba Chalis Chor.
Before dipping a toe into staging theatre for the young audience, the producers of the play should have utilised their own imagination to create something new in place of piggybacking on someone else’s ideas. As it appeared, they seemed to be relying on the ‘Open Sesame” mantra to steal the gist of the classic tale and bring back the stolen treasure in a miserably contorted form.
Frankly speaking, there was no Ali Baba, but there were a lot of chors.