ne of the best news to have come from the cultural scene recently is the ongoing Pakistan Theatre Festival in Karachi, especially the participation of several theatre groups from abroad.
It has been a while since groups from outside the country participated in cultural activities in the country. Pakistan has been a no-go area for many in the world; many refrain from coming here even if invited. Though the invitations have been few and far between, some are advised by their respective governments to stay away.
It must be said that the literary festivals which have really mushroomed over the past few years have a fair intake of foreign delegates. Many of the writers, poets and even personages from the world of theatre and films have been part of the schedules, but it is another matter when performances take place. We are very good at talking but not so good with actual production of art in whatever form.
Only people working outside the country by and driven by their own initiative get to make a mark and develop a following internationally. So many of the Pakistanis artists are lauded across the world and some have even bagged prestigious awards but their contribution is not that well known within the country. It could be that the expectations of the critics and audiences differ internationally and nationally. Still the veil should be fully lifted and greater participation ensured.
It has been many years since the Rafi Peer Group hosted international festivals spanning theatre, films, music, dance and puppets. These were held with such regularity and speed that one became blasé about it being an affair that happens and will happen forever. This complacency was rudely put to an end by a terrorist attack in 2008. Since then, the activities have tapered off. It appears like a dream that scores of groups and hundreds of foreign artistes attended the festival.
It has been many years since the Rafi Peer Group hosted international festivals spanning theatre, films, music, dance and puppets. These were held with such regularity and speed that one became blasé to it being an affair that happens and will happen forever.
Sitting in Lahore and being a thousand kilometers away, one can only wish to be part of the audience and be involved in the activity with such diverse participation. The joy and the satisfaction are there nevertheless. The authorities that have been able to manage this ought to be felicitated for the bold, perhaps expensive, initiative.
From the various types of media reports one has learnt that some of the groups participating in the festival are from Sri Lanka and the United States. The plays have included Patriot & Abdullah, Through The Waves, The Police, Kanya Biwi Ho Toh Apni, Taleem-i-Balighan, Trashedy, Both Sit In, One Night Stand Up, The Bobbles, Anhi Mai Da Sufna, Kaun Hai Yeh Gustakh, Insha Ka Intezaar, Saazish Ki Wajah Say Khel Multavi, Ken B Eniwan`s Story, Barsaat, Social Pagal, The Father, Gadha Mandi, Chandravati, Say No!, Nocturnal, Art Aur Aata, Ikhtiyar, Anarkali Say Aagay, Fareb, Sham Bhi Thi, Shab Bakhair Maan, Iranian, Ek Yaad, Zeest, The Finest Cutter, Love70, Pir Achy Aur Mir Baqar Ali and a play by Turkiye Theatre.
Most of the well-known theatre groups from Pakistan have and will participate. The well-known impresario directors, playwrights and stage actors have been around for the duration of their shows if not the entire length of the festival. It is always a good occasion for people to huddle together. This can only augur well for creativity.
The National Academy of Performing Arts has established a solid base for the performing arts in the city of Karachi. It is good to see so many being part of the festival. The large number of workshops that are being held will also generate new ideas and innovative techniques to be made part of the theatre and performing arts vocabulary. The Arts Council, Karachi, should also make more efforts to bring such festivals to other cities, including Lahore, as they have done with their literary or literature festivals. Though huge and expensive, it will be a grand gesture for the cause that it has taken upon itself to serve.
The writer is a culture critic based in Lahore.