By Tenzin Dharpo
DHARAMSHALA, April 6: London based Royal Court Theatre has dropped a play on Tibet following advice from the UK government’s cultural diplomacy arm, British Council which cited possible fallout of a joint arts programme with China and the play coinciding with “significant political meetings”.
Award winning playwright Abhishek Majumdar penned the play on contemporary Tibetans in exile titled “Pah-lah” (father).
The Royal Court Theatre earlier in February said that the play was shelved due to financial reasons adding that the play “can be” played next year. “We are pleased this play can be staged in 2019: the playwright took part in previous writing workshops we supported in India,” a spokesperson from the theatre house told The Guardian
. However, the play has been dropped altogether now.
British Council official, Nick Marchand, expressed that the play on Tibet may side-track joint arts program with Chinese writers. He told The Guardian
, “Frankly, we do feel that Pah-La will likely jeopardise the Royal Court’s ability to do further work in/with China for some time. By extension, we suspect it would be the end of the writing project.”
The winner of ‘Metro Plus Playwriting Award’, Majumdar in a Facebook post in February lamented that, “the British Council China pressurised the theatre to withdraw it (the play) from opening,” in fear of revoking an arts programme in Beijing where Chinese writers are working with the Royal Court theatre and the British Council in China. Majumdar said that the theatre management “simply backtracked on its commitment citing pressures from above.”
The play took over three years in the making and involved research and first-hand accounts of Tibetans in exile. Lhakpa Tsering, Founder of ‘Tibet Theatre’ and an actor who worked with Majumdar in Dharamshala said that he was half expectant of Beijing’s intrusion when he was accompanying the playwright and assisting the project a year ago. Tsering told Phayul that China has always elbowed its way into establishing what they felt is the right way, especially when it is about Tibet.
“But its nothing new, China has blurred the boundaries when it comes to maintaining their narrative, so art is no exception. Sadly, it is just another incident incident of China being China and the international community remaining silent with regards to their interest,” Lhakpa told Phayul earlier.