ravings, rantings and ramblings
This post has a dual perspective. One highlights the plight of theatre in today’s age and the other highlights the free-loading nature of the affluent.
Theatre, is a dying art-form. It neither was as paying as films, nor was it half as glamorous. Yet, it stood as a litmus for true talent. However, in the upper echelons of society, going to the local theatres, earns them a classist image; something that looks good in trashy page 3 magazines. Their mobile phones ring, they get up in the middle of the play with their seat thudding to a close and they feature in the next day’s newspapers with a quote and a smile! Most know nothing about plays, neither do they make efforts to educate themselves. Just that a play or production is more talked about when the glitterati turn out in full swing!
Love for theatre in this star-crazed part of the world has a filmy angle to it. Any play with a Bollywood star in it, works better. The box office registers ring better. Honestly, I have seen plays like those and most seem to suffer from the theatre point of view; unless of course, one gets to witness the likes of Naseeruddin Shah and Shabana Azmi. Theatre actors know of the struggle themselves. There are many actors who are married to theatre but have films as their keep.
In the recent past, Dubai has seen a flurry of plays with many stars – from ‘Ismat Apaa Ke Naam’ to ‘Tumhari Amrita’, from ‘Dinner With Friends’ to ‘August: Osage County’. Inversely, people flock to the theatres primarily because of the ‘star’ value. It works in their favour. Pity that theatre relies on films to survive, when once theatre was the breeding ground for film actors.
All the above, brings me to my second point – and that is asking for free passes. I have been actively involved in the radio scene in Dubai for the last 5 years, supporting local talent and seasoned pros. And while the first adverts run on radio, publicising tickets rates and points of purchase, I see the first rows of the theatre getting filled up by clients and contacts who have done nothing to buy tickets or encourage the art-form. I admit it gets really annoying when premium tickets get hand-delivered to CEOs, business heads, brand managers, agency contacts and potential clients. Special invites that sit on tables only to be torn and thrown away the following morning because the invitee chose to go a fashion show with a wine and cheese after-party!
Client, agency and consultant form a parasitical relationship wherein a favour is exchanged in every event. I call it parasitical piggy-backing. Consultant will offer freebies in exchange for a commercial campaign. Something like this is not just limited to plays by film stars but to free dinners and parties as well. Just that when a filmstar is making an appearance, whether on the red carpet or in a theatre production, getting free invites is an accepted tradition. In fact, these days the second rank has mustered enough courage to directly ask, “You have free passes for us? I want 6 Gold.”
There seldom is a place for refusal.