By Hina Farooq
LAHORE: The five-day Spring Theatre Festival by Ajoka Theatre opened on Friday at Alhamra, The Mall. The festival will be featuring a renowned Ajoka play as well as new plays in order to engage audiences with a more serious tone.
Many people are anticipating the new addition play ‘Hotel Mohenjodaro’, which will be staged on April 26 and April 27. The play is inspired by a short Urdu story by Ghulam Abbas, adapted by Shahid Nadeem and based on social issues. The story depicts a society ruled by religious fanatics and its overwhelming consequences.
The festival will feature theatre illustrating various social changes and themes of society with plays such as ‘Kala Meda Bhes’, which will be performed on April 28. The play is based on a real-life incident in Sindh, where a woman was traded for an ox. The story revolves around the woman, Sundri, who is initially humiliated at the exchange, then angry and eventually becomes determined to prove her worth as a human being. The play uses the folk theatre style of the Swaang and is a bold attempt, both thematically and in terms of style.
The third play Bala King is Shahid Nadeems Punjabi adaptation of Brecht’s ‘The Rise of Arturo Ui’. This will be staged on April 29. The story evolves as Ui is replaced by Bala, an unemployed leader of a wrestling group, who decides to leave Taxali Gate and tries his luck at the Badami Bagh Lorry Adda, a hub of inter-city road transport. A self-righteous businessman dominates the Lorry Adda. The play documents the Bala gang’s exploitation of the vulnerable groups of society and his misuse of physical strength to intimidate and blackmail people into accepting his unreasonable offers. The rise of Bala King and people’s inability to resist his advances exposes the weakness and susceptibility of society to violence, blackmail and corruption.
According to publicity by the theatre group, “The adaptation shows once again that Brecht is as relevant in Pakistan today as he was to Germany and Europe in the 40s.” Also it states, “Although an adaptation, Bala King is very relevant and meaningful to the Pakistani audience, where the spectre of autocratic rule looms large, where violence and crime appears to pay politically and where a complacent and acquiescent majority seems helpless against the forces of corruption, crime and violence.”
The play ‘Bulha’ staged on April 30 is predominantly based on the events of Bulleh Shah’s life, as communicated through his poetry, historical records and popular myths. The play reveals the majority of dramatic episodes in the life of Bulleh Shah. His search for truth, devotion to his mentor Shah Inayat, the conflict with intolerant clergy and corrupt nawabs as well as the opposition to war and bloodshed in the name of religion, are all integrated effectively in the play. The story also has relevance to present-day South Asia. ‘Bulha’ is not just a period play. It is also a celebration of the rich and vibrant culture of the Punjab.
The Panj Pani Festival was scheduled to be in Lahore during the same month, as was custom, but this time Indian delegates required to reach Pakistan could not get visas. That festival was thus postponed resulting in the organising of the spring festival.