Sarmad Khoosat to spend 24 hours portraying a death row prisoner’s final moments

September 19, 2018

Photo: No Time To Sleep/ Facebook

On on October 10, World Day Against the Death Penalty, the Justice Project Pakistan, in collaboration with Olomopolo Media and Highlight Arts, will be putting on a 24-hour-long performance that will be streamed live around the world.

Portrayed by acclaimed actor Sarmad Khoosat, No Time to Sleep depicts the final days of Prisoner Z. Taking on the role of a lifetime, Khoosat who already gained famed after starring in major roles in film and theatre, has directorial credits like Manto and Hum Safar to his name.

Talking to SAMAA Digital, Rimmel Mohydin, communications head at the Justice Project Pakistan, said, “Sarmad is going through body transformations at the moment and has lost a lot of his weight for this character.”

There will be no breaks — the actors will continue the performance for a full 24 hours — and it will be streamed live, which means there will be no editing.

“Since it will be a 24-hour-long play, the camera will never look away so an actual functional toilet has been installed on the set,” said Mohydin.

Set inside a replica of an actual death cell, Prisoner Z’s journey will begin on September 26 at 12pm when his mercy petition is rejected. A social media prologue will depict rolling coverage of the execution warrant and the wheels that are set in motion to carry out his execution. Petitions are filed in court, the media is alerted and the family is notified and scrambles to make the harrowing trip to visit him for the last time.

Zulfiqar was the JPP’s first client and spent 17 years on death row. In that time, his execution was scheduled and stayed more than 20 times. During his incarceration, Zulfiqar educated hundreds of prisoners, securing 33 diplomas himself.

Through the prologue, online content will inform followers how the death penalty in Pakistan has been implemented since the moratorium was lifted.

When the live stream begins, Zulfiqar will be sitting in his cell in solitary confinement, occasionally being silent, occasionally conversing with the guard who is watching him. But mostly, he will wait. This piece is primarily about the tyranny of time that is both long and short – running slow and running out – while the ropes are tested.

Working on the concept of this play for the past year, Mohydin said, “Rehearsals have been taking place for the past seven months in order to accurately portray what happens to prisoners prior to execution, based on accounts of guards, former prisoners, and their families.”

No Time to Sleep will begin streaming live at exactly 12am on October 10.

The set of the play is Avenue Studio, Lahore and the play will have a very limited live audience.