LOL Walaay brings interactive theatre to Karachi

Published 07 Sep, 2015 01:20pm

Umer Bin Ajmal

The troupe focuses on staging plays based on interaction between audience and artists on varying, unknown scenarios.

Members of improvisational theatre troupe LOL Waalay. — Photo courtesy: LOL Waalay Facebook page
Members of improvisational theatre troupe LOL Waalay. — Photo courtesy: LOL Waalay Facebook page

KARACHI: A small group of starry-eyed performers on the block is beckoning Karachi to show some love.

Falling somewhere between improvisational comedy and theatre, troupe ‘LOL Walaay’ will be performing at the Pakistan American Cultural Center (PACC) in Karachi from January 9 to 11 under the banner of McDonald's and Wormhole Productions to tickle Karachiites' funny bone.

The troupe focuses on stage plays based on interaction between audience and the artists on different scenarios that are not known beforehand.

“The basic idea is to improvise suggestions given by the audience,” Akbar Chaudry, a troupe member of LOL Walaay said.

“We don’t have scripts, we don’t follow traditional theatrical methodology, but we do rehearse to practice the methods involved,” he said.

Zubair Tariq, another team member of LOL Waalay, explains the difference between a traditional and improvisational theatre performance. “What we do is absolutely different from a stand-up comedy and can be tied to theatre; the difference is the spontaneity."

He explains that there are five to six performers and a host that communicate with the audience. The host takes up suggestions and the artists use wait and skill to respond spontaneously.

Akbar feels that the city's appetite for performance art, theatre and improvisational comedy has increased. “The industry is flourishing and it has enough money in it to be considered a full-time profession.”

“It is becoming good business for everyone now,” he said.

LOL Walaay relies heavily on sponsors to enable them to organise, produce and perform shows at bigger venues and for large audiences.

“We started off at smaller venues; people came to our events, they liked us and called us to their events,” Zubair told Dawn, adding that it became a chain of sorts and drew more numbers in the audience.

When the troupe moved on to perform at bigger venues, it started looking for sponsors — and getting these did not prove to be a hassle. “Once [the sponsors] had seen us performing at different places, they knew we could attract large crowds,” Zubair said.

With the film industry fast on the track of revival, it appeared to be the right time to bring people back to watch theatre as well, Nabhan Karim, founder and head of production at Wormhole Productions told Dawn.

The Wormhole Productions organises improvisational theatre plays and stand-up comedy shows in Pakistan.

For Nabhan, it was the right time to make people realise a different form of theatre which is already being largely followed in other countries. “We feel that there is a lack of knowledge for not just improvisational theatre but comedy in general,” he said.

“People assume that these performers are up there just making up jokes but that is not the case; these are highly intelligent performers.”

“Initially, it was difficult to get people to watch improvisational theatre, but now things are different,” he added. “Improv-comedy is getting popular.”

“If we keep supporting our performers, one day they too can make us proud on a global level,” Nabhan said.

“Pakistan has great talent; recently Saad Haroon proved it by getting second place in the Funniest Person Competition.”

It has been long heard for theatre performers that the artists do not get paid well for the profession and this is the reason that Wormhole Productions aims to increase its commercial value.

“As a production company, that is what we want to achieve; that people who have this talent can consider this a full time career,” Nabhan said.