Opening up the arts to everyone

Published August 11, 2022
A ballroom dance scene from Romeo and Juliet staged recently at the National Academy of Performing Arts.—White Star / File
A ballroom dance scene from Romeo and Juliet staged recently at the National Academy of Performing Arts.—White Star / File

KARACHI: Recently, Britain’s deputy leader of the opposition and deputy leader of the Labour Party Angela Rayner went to see Mozart’s The Marriage of Figaro at Glyndenbourne. The Deputy Prime Minister of the country, Dominic Raab, found it opportune to take a dig at her and called her a ‘champagne socialist’. Ms Rayner in response said: “My advice to the deputy PM is to cut out the snobbery and brush up on his opera. The Marriage of Figaro is the story of a working-class woman who gets the better of a privileged but dim-witted villain… Judging by his own performance today, Dominic Raab could learn a lesson about opening up the arts to everyone, whatever their background.”

Ms Rayner in her reply made a point — opening up the arts to everyone — that those associated with the arts in Pakistan, particularly in Karachi, which has been the cultural hub of the country for a few decades at least in terms of the regularity with which art-related activities take place here, must take note of.

In a society that is increasingly moving towards a non-reading culture, the performing arts can be a wonderful source of inculcating ideas. Plus, they engender tenderness in human beings. In that regard, the big question that springs to mind is: are the arts readily accessible to the people?

Tickets of three theatrical productions to be played this month are beyond the reach of most people

In this month alone, weather permitting, three theatrical productions will see the light of day in the city — one at the Arts Council, another at the National Academy of Performing Arts (Napa) and one more, in the English language which was staged in Lahore last month, is travelling to Karachi in late August.

What is their target audience? To be honest, each falls into a different category — a political satire laced with humour, a piece extracted from ancient texts and a story of a couple. Therefore, it is difficult to ascertain who is going to see what drama. The conjecture is that scripts written in a lighter vein usually produce more eagerness in audiences. But wouldn’t it be wonderful if a large section of people, in the Pakistani context, watched all kinds of stuff? After all, art reflects life. It is education.

Now, there are a couple of issues here, the first of which is affordability. A friend told this writer that he wanted to see one of the aforementioned plays with his wife. When he inquired about the tickets, it turned out that buying them would be beyond his means. Ah, the villain known as inflation!

Then where do they advertise/market these productions? Answer: mostly on social media… and in English. This is a clear indication that they have a certain section of society in mind — those who can afford to spend oodles of money and those who can, arguably, feign intellectual superiority.

One is aware that it is not an easy subject to broach. After all, producers of big theatrical performances need assurances of different kinds — monetary, moral, artistic etc — to keep going. Still, since artists are thought to be a liberated lot, they say, liberty means responsibility.

Published in Dawn, August 11th, 2022

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