Nou Lideal is the latest play by Umar Timol, enacted a few weeks ago by the talented Shrita Hassamal and Gaston Valayden, in the roles of daughter and father respectively. What starts out as an innocent conversation between father and daughter, takes a more serious turn as the play progresses to a most sinister climax. The play is a short but thought-provoking one, which touches upon some very relevant themes of our times.
The play takes place in the daughter’s bedroom. Interestingly, the characters are not named, a deliberate choice from the playwright to insinuate that this kind of situation can take place in any household, the focus being on the clash of ideas and ideals more than anything else. The warm relationship shared between the two is lovingly portrayed with the father reflecting on how his daughter has grown up and no longer sees him as her whole world. His musings also show the complex aspirations that parents have for their children: grow up, make a name for oneself, be free to come into their own but also wanting them to comply to societal norms to counter the all-important “dimounn ki pou dir”. For instance, it’s funny how the father is depicted as one who has encouraged his daughter to be herself and yet is horrified when she swears loudly in case the neighbours hear her.
However, there are cracks in the relationship as well. The daughter has suffered an unnamed trauma, known to the father but it seems as if even though she has had his support, she feels like he does not understand the extent of her trauma, causing frustration and friction between them. This relationship also explores, albeit shortly, the fact that children will most logically follow their own path and to some degree will fall short of certain expectations of parents. For instance, parents encourage their children to open their minds, read books that were maybe deemed taboo in their times, talk freely about issues and yet, still want them to be their own reflections and expect them to mould their lives according to that of their parents. This is an unrealistic expectation for children are fully fledged individuals capable of their own thoughts and free to decide the way they want to live their lives.
Ideals v/s Realism
The most important theme of the play remains the clash of ideals between father and daughter. The young woman wants to redress the world, and as the father mentions, he does too, but their methods are radically different. The nuance between idealism and realism is portrayed in all its complicatedness. Where the daughter wants a paradigm shift from capitalism, greed, corruption, the father, who shares his daughter’s ideals, counters that such ideals are not realistic: a most uncomfortable truth, especially as one ages and sees the world under all its ugliness. A number of people might find themselves in the words of the father, whereby as time goes by, we become more realistic regarding a paradigm shift of the ways of the world. That does not mean that one gives up on these ideals, but rather, one finds other ways of living them, on an individual level, by exposing future generations to same, by not supporting those that we condemn. These acts might not bring a huge change but it helps to perpetuate the ideals. It is cowardly? Maybe. But for some, this is the only way possible, especially when people espousing such ideals are in a minority. Banding together might help, but is it enough?
As the play progresses and the layers are peeled off, the tension between the two rises. A shocking discovery in his daughter’s drawer makes the father realise just how far his daughter has gone in the pursuit of her ideals. As tempers flare, clash between ideals and realism reaches its zenith, so does a seemingly shocking end for one of the characters, which is left to the audience’s imagination as to who has suffered the most in the end. Who died: ideals or realism? Maybe more importantly, what died or maybe hurt beyond repair was the trust and bond between father and daughter.