Elevate Difference

The House Of Bilquis Bibi (7/2010)

London, England

Making her UK stage debut is veteran Indian singer and actress Ila Arun who plays the formidable lady in question. As the Pakistani mother of five unmarried daughters (Ghizala Avan, Vineeta Rishi, Shalini Peiris, Mariam Haque and Youkti Patel), Bilquis Bibi rules her house with an iron rod, almost literally. Brandishing her walking stick like a sword, she domineers her daughters, each of whom is trying to cope with the death of their father, Bilquis’s second husband.

Stricken with diabetes, her task of managing an all female household in mourning is further aggravated by her senile mother (Indira Joshi) and feisty maid servant, Bushra (the excellent Rina Fatania), on whom she relies on for the administration of life saving medication. Having agreed for her eldest girl Abida to marry her younger nephew Pappo, with their union comes the hope of love and new life in America. Conveniently turning a blind eye to the forbidden nightly visits Pappo pays to his fiancée’s balcony, it’s not until Bilquis realises that more than one of her daughters is staying awake for him that the real drama kicks in.

A zealous adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s masterpiece, The House of Bernarda Alba, Tamasha’s Bhuchar and co-founder and director Kristine Landon-Smith turn for to their favourite Spanish poet, dramatist, and theatre director for inspiration for the third time in their company’s history. Transporting one of his most famous plays from 1930s Spain to modern day Pakistan’s rich Punjab region, The House of Bilquis Bibi tells a personal story of suffocated small town lives with global ties. While the setting may be decades and continents apart, the core story and female characters remain as real and relevant today as they were during Lorca’s time.

While The House of Bilquis Bibi may not be Tamasha’s most ambitious productions, it is one of the most important. Besides giving a platform to a rare all female cast of nine, it also underlines Tamasha’s twenty-one-year history, an amazing body of work and the fact that one of the UK’s most successful Asian theatre companies started life as a project dreamt up by two friends in a small flat in Crouch End. For that Bhuchar and Landon-Smith must be applauded.

Excerpted from The NRI

Written by: Jaspreet Pandohar, August 9th 2010