While former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf shuffles his choices in life after politics, an unnamed Pakistani dictator’s wife still seems to be in the thick of things—in Edinburgh, Scotland.
The dictator is there in spirit, for it’s his wife who does most of the talking. More than 6,000 km away from Islamabad, the Edinburgh Festival of Arts is hosting a play called The Dictator’s Wife by the Pakistani novelist Mohammed Hanif.
The 50-minute, one-woman show is part of Invasian—a group of theatre companies featuring new British Asian writing at the much-acclaimed festival.
In Hanif’s play, the first lady has received 5,000 roses for her 34th wedding anniversary. Meanwhile, her husband, the sixth most powerful man in the world, has started bringing a briefcase to bed. The only problem is that the briefcase contains active controls for the country’s nuclear weapons.
“Can this feud be contained to the marital bedroom?” asks a summary of the play, which is being produced by the Edinburgh-based Wave Theatre.
Hanif said if it does well in Edinburgh, he would like to take the play to India and Pakistan.
“It is not based on any particular dictator,” he said, although his Booker-nominated novel, A Case of Exploding Mangoes contains a fictionalised account of the late General Zia-ul-Haq’s wife.
Hanif, a former Pakistan Air Force officer who now heads the BBC’s Urdu language radio, has also been promoting his novel at book events at the Edinburgh Festival, an annual feature in the European cultural calendar.
The dictator’s wife is being played by the playwright’s wife, Nimra Bucha, who was actively involved in and performed with Baang Theatre, an actor’s collective in Pakistan, before she moved to London.
Wave Theatre focuses on new writing and acting talent from South Asian, black and minority ethnic backgrounds.