‘The Exception and the Rule’ Political and educational theatre of Bertolt Brecht shown at PNCA

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Glimpses of the Play ‘The Exception and the Rule’ at PNCA Islamabad. Deputy German Head of Mission Dr. Philipp Deichmann also attended the event. Pictures: The Dayspring
By: Atle Hetland 

Pakistan National Council of the Arts & 29 Production in collaboration with German Embassy in Islamabad organised a stage play THE EXCEPTION OF THE RULE on 30 to 31 August at PNCA Auditorium. The theater play was masterpiece of Bertolt Brecht which was attended by many people from different walks of life including Deputy German Head of Mission Dr. Philipp Deichmann.

Bertolt Brecht (1898-1956), an East German political poet and playwright, wrote numerous theatre plays in the 1920s and early 1930s. He wanted to teach more than entrain, well, knowing, too, that theatre is a way of reaching people with information almost unnoticeably. Brecht built on the form of social realism in literature, which had become popular in modern drama, novels and short stories in the second half of the 19th century, with the Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen being seen as the founder of the genre. Brecht took the form a step further, made it more specific for educational purposes, with short ‘teaching pieces’, or ‘Lehrstücken’, as it is termed in German, shown at theatres but also at workplaces, schools and universities, bring.

“In my youth in Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, when socialism was still en vogue, Berthold Brecht was a loved dramatist. We flocked to his theatre plays. I believe that he was even more admired in Eastern Europe”, said a German guest at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) in Islamabad

            “In my youth in Western Europe in the 1960s and 1970s, when socialism was still en vogue, Berthold Brecht was a loved dramatist. We flocked to his theatre plays. I believe that he was even more admired in Eastern Europe”, said a German guest at the Pakistan National Council of the Arts (PNCA) in Islamabad, where one of Brecht’s plays, ‘The Exception and the Rule’, was shown recently to full auditorium. The event was opened and the actors of the ’29 Production’ welcomed by senior representatives from the German Embassy and PNCA. The play was directed by Asif Shah, and after the PNCA performance, it was also shown in open-air, in the right Brecht-spirit.

            The messages in this play were typical for Brecht, notably drawing attention to class differences in society and the law supporting the establishment and upper sections of society. The play was about a wealthy merchant, who hired a coolie to and a guide to help him cross a dessert to sign an oil deal in the city. During the travel, misunderstandings develop and the merchant shoots the coolie, claiming self-defense because he had look threatening. The judges agreed that he was in his right to have felt threatened.

“However, the full audience at the theatre play, and probably also at the court case that Brecht wrote about, understood that there was no real excuse and defense for the crime”, said a Pakistani student. “The play showed how biased the ‘class laws’ can be, and also how ignorant we all can be, seeing things through old and outdated ways.”

The student said he wanted to add a quote from Bertolt Brecht: “Because things are the way they are, they will not stay the way they are.”  The student said he found that quote quite elegant, getting us to think about the world around us and about change.

“It is we who are young who must learn to analyze the world around, and it is we who must change what is not right. The class differences are huge, but also differences between men and women, rural and urban people, members of different religions, and also between rich and poor countries”, said the student.