A new stage drama, Exception and the Rule, was presented by local artists at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) on Thursday night.
Arranged by the PNCA in collaboration with German Embassy, the play was written by famous German playwright Bertolt Brecht in 1930 to educate the poor about the inequalities among rich and poor people of society.
Running a little over an hour, the story reflects the class differences prevailing in the society. The play points out social challenges and raises awareness about them.
With subtitles running in the backdrop, the play depicts an obsessed and mistrusting merchant with a guide and a labourer who has to cross a desert to strike an oil deal. During the journey, hardships and horrifying fear of death make the merchant panic and he starts beating the hired coolie and kills him. The merchant’s case is then heard in court and is set free on the grounds that he killed the hired in self-defence.
Directed by Asif Shah, the play, which shows society serves only the affluential and it is the poor who pays the price. The play reflects inequalities and injustice between the rich and the poor.
Through their interactions during their journey, the writer also analyses the mindsets of a capitalist society and with the help of some characters elaborates how rules could be used to manipulate reason.
The stage was a simple setting. The audience, including locals and diplomats, appreciated the efforts of PNCA for the promotion of theatre and arts.
Bertolt Brecht was the main proponent of ethnic theatre whose main idea was that theatre should evoke self-reflection amongst the audience as well as the critical view rather than causing emotional identification with the characters, said the organisers.
“He saw theatre as floor for political ideas, in particular for socialist Marxist ideas. Exception and the Rule is a so-called teaching play, which he wrote around the end of the 1920s in Germany. He wrote this kind of short plays to be shown in schools and factories in order to educate the masses about socialist politics,” said the organisers.
During the trip through the desert, class differences between him and his coolie are shown and the conflict escalates and the coolie as a part of the lower class is on the losing side.
“Though the play is a hundred years old, its message is still valid. Class differences in society should not lead to injustice for the poor and preferential treatment for the rich,” said one of the organisers.
Originally published in Dawn, August 30th, 2019