In order to commemorate ‘World Day Against the Death Penalty’, Pakistan’s very own acting whiz Sarmad Khoosat started a 24-hour long performance — depicting the final hours of a death row prisoner — on Tuesday night. The performance titled No Time to Sleep was being streamed online with a large audience from across the world, including the British parliament and universities in Ireland — tuned in.
The groundbreaking live stream has a timeline of events charted to explain how Prisoner Z, also known as Doctor Sahib, will be counting each moment of his life from the arrival of his family to the final death sentence. Viewers in Pakistan can watch the live telecast here.
The act illustrates the cruelty of a ticking clock, when time is both long and short for a prisoner awaiting life’s conclusion – time is running out but it is running slow. Crucial moments such as when he is served a packet of biscuits and tea as his last dinner, when his appeal is rejected by the high court and when his family arrived to meet him for the last time at the Lahore Central jail; all complex emotions portrayed elaborately and brilliantly by Sarmad.
Final visit of Z’s family and his last meal
Speaking to Something Haute last week, Sarmad admitted that he prepared for six months for this character, who will definitely shatter our fictionalized beliefs about death penalty. “I had to grow a beard and lose weight, but the biggest challenge is to feel the confinement,” Sarmad shared. “I’ve been closing myself in a box for hours to get a feel of confinement.”
When asked why the performance is humanizing a prisoner who has been sentenced to death for committing a heinous crime, the actor told Instep: “It’s all about the faulty judicial system. Life imprisonment is understandable but how do you bring back someone who has been given an unfair verdict? There have been instances where the reversal of a death sentence has been issued but delivered a month or two after the death sentence has already been carried out.”
The performance could be viewed live at Bari Studios in Lahore by a limited audience — 20 people — and for a limited time — one hour (per a 20-person group). The project has been organized by Justice Project Pakistan, in collaboration with Olomopolo Media and Highlight Arts. The act has been directed by Kanwal Khoosat and produced by Iram Sana while it’s been conceptualised by Ryan van Winkle.