News

‘Chick with a Trick’ went far too East! Pakistan Zinda Baadh!

12/18/2007

The stunning award-winning production ‘Chick with a Trick’ was presented in Pakistan with 3 performances on 28, 29 and 30 November 2007. Despite of the political problems in the country, the 7th World performing Arts festival in Lahore, Pakistan took place between 22 November and 2 December 2007. The festival programme include9 more than 100 events from the field of puppet and drama theatre, dance, music, film. Beside the Bulgarian artists from Pro Rodopi Art Centre, their colleagues from Canada, UK, Ireland, Romania, Austria, Italy, Switzerland, Czech republic, Germany, The Netherlands, Belgium, Iran, India, Sri Lanka and Pakistan presented their work to Pakistani audiences.

Look bellow at the text Petar Todorov wrote as a response to this exciting trip.

PAKISTAN ZINDA BAADH !

Trapped in a hotel in the Kingdom of Bahrain on 3rd December inbetween miss-scheduled flights of Gulf Air on the route Lahore-Bahrain-Athens-Sofia (and from there Bostina on 4h drive distance), I am trying to figur out my responses to the visit of
Pro Rodopi Art Centre to Pakistan due to our participation with the production
‘Chick with a Trick’ at 7th World Performing Arts festival in Lahore, 22 Nov-2 Dec 2007.

The clash of cultures, backgrouds, mentalities, lifestyles, religions, artistic tastes was obvious and expected. Dedication to international touring includes all that. But experiencing the real life there is something unforgetable. Unbareble polution on the streets of the 9 mln muslim dominated megapolis Lahore, second biggest city in Pakistan after Karachi, where the smog and dust violently rape one’s langes. There the idea of ‘ecological-friendly city environment’ evokes only cynical laughter. Right-hand, chaotic and aggressive traffic consists of motorcycled gasoline rhikshas, all kind of cars, colourful buses, tracks and traktors, and man-, donkey-, horse-, and ox-power extravagant and surreal ‘vehickles’. The world heritage monuments like Lahore Fort and Badshahi Mosque are just amazing. But most shoking of all – the poor neighbourhoods with their citizens where the painful-to-observe poverty and living-on-the-street lifestyle are something which European nations would never understand and accept. All these striking pictures remain deeply sucked by one’s senses and stored into physicallity and personality in a way that can not be erased off at least for a long time.

Artistically the festival, organized by the famous Rafi Peer theatre family, offered ‘all vegetables spicy soup’ of everything – dance, theatre, puppets, film, literaly any kind of music etc. More than 100 single events were held in 11 days in 9 venues simultainiously with participants from over 20 countriues of all continents. Some of the arte facts were very good, some were just undiscribable. We were so surprised but very happy to meet the TEH ambassador Sabina Schabrak from Vienna, who brought there the amazing Bulgarian-Austrian ‘Gypsy fusion’ Martin Lyubenov orchestra. We had good fun together!

The point to write all this was not just to share the excitement of taking part in such an event, in such a place. The main reason was to raise the issue of how further we schould go taking the risk in our work – doesn’t matter which ditection – the artistic risk or presenting art in risky environment. Bulgarian foreign ministry strongly advised us not to go there due to the unstable politic situation and the risk of terroristic acts. Indeed Pakistan is facing at present big changes – the president Musharraf gave up the post of amry commander, the opposition leaders Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif returned from long years of exhile abroad with a hope to play major role in january 2008 elections for new parliament etc. All our friends and relatives were worried about this trip as well. But our decision was to go there despite all concerns. We felt that it is important to go there and to give our support to the organizers who do great and sincere efforts in order to present to Pakistani audience various art forms as a way to educate and callange the local society through getting people familiar with world cultural differences.

Was it risky to be there? Pakistan is still under ‘emergency rule’, solgiers and police with guns were everywhere. There was no feeling of danger, but not a feeling of complete safety as well. Maybe this was just a projection of our inners subjective concerns about this country and locals. During the festival period we did not hear of any terroristic action or life-disturbing demonstrations, despite few small gatherings of people against Musharraf. All the time we were taken by special transport from the hotels to the festival venues, which were greatly designed by the way. Walking alone on the streets or markets was left to our own decision and foreigners hardly did any escapes from the escorts. But some did and nothing happened! So the question whether it is dangerous tand risky to go to Pakistan has no bold answer. I would say it is more dangerous to get stuck to our inner fears and not interfearing with the ‘different’ worlds. In my personal case I was there with my wife performing, while our little son stayed alone in Bulgaria with his grandmother. So the ‘risk factor’ for us was ‘higher’. But we took it. And it was worth to do so!

There was one event outside the festival which helped us to understand better the country of Pakistan and its people. We were lucky to experience it. It was not in the ‘programme’. We heard there is an interesting ceremony at Pakistani – Indian border in Wagha, 17 km from Lahore – pulling down the flags of the two countries in a joint military ceremony at sunset. We asked the festival organizers and they were so kind to drive us there, even for free. Thousands people gather from both sides of the border and sit in something like a greek amphitheatre, they even pay a ticket to enter the area. The men and women were separated on the tribunes, they are not allowed to be together. The solgiers from both sides march on the road and make scary faces and jestures to each other to show off the power of their countries. Few ‘warm-uppers’ with national flags run arround and shout at people to cry stronger ‘Pakistan Zinda Baadh! Pakistan Zinda Baadh!’ (Long Live Pakistan!) Probably Indians did the same from the other side but it was so noisy at Pakistani’s so we could not hear what is going on 100 m further across the border. At the very end, they let the bus of regular line New Delhi-Lahore to pass through the crowd and everybody apploused and whisled. A perfect piece of theatre!

I would like to end this small artickle open. Our production went very successful in Pakistan – full houses, happy audience, invitation for a festival in India in August 2008. But if you ask me whether we want to be back, I don’t know… At least in that moment. I don’t know where is the border for human beings in our will to take risks for our lives, for our work. Though we strongly felt that people in Lahore do need visiting artists like us there. And for sure, we’ve got new friends!