In 2015, we brought Pakistani human rights theatre group Ajoka to London’s National Theatre. We co-produced the play Dara, a story about a Sufi Mughal prince embroiled in a civil war with his brother for the throne. After a successful three-month sold-out run, The Samosa has continued to run community workshops including screenings to explore themes of conflict, religion and South Asian history within Dara and organise film screenings of the production for schools and colleges.
Dara is the portrayal of the 17th century Mughal dynasty of Shah Jahan and addresses many debates of freedom, history and religious practice that are still present in South Asia. As part of its work on the Pakistan Calling film project, The Samosa brought Dara to the National Theatre’s attention. The National Theatre was inspired to produce and stage Dara, in partnership with Ajoka Theatre Company, in one of Britain’s most prestigious arts venues. The Samosa acted as production consultant and broker between the National Theatre and Ajoka. This partnership oversaw an intensive creative production process of Dara.
Dara was seen by more than 30,000 people in London over 36 performances through the spring of 2015. The audiences included many young people from Britain’s Asian communities. Dara created much public debate on the issues of culture, history, religious tolerance and the history of South Asia.
It was the first time a work by a Pakistani theatre company has been adapted and staged by the National Theatre. As a response to the hugely positive press and audience response to the play, the National Theatre took steps to secure the legacy of this play. A high quality film was made of the full live performance of Dara, to secure the play for cultural, educational and arts festival screenings.
Some media coverage of Dara is below:
The Guardian –The story of Dara, the newest production to take to the boards at the National Theatre, begins thousands of miles away from London’s South Bank.
Telegraph – Peter Tatchell – ‘Every child in Britain should see the National’s latest play: Dara dramatises the historic struggle against Islamist extremism – it can reach people that political debate cannot.. Bought to London by the British-Pakistani cultural and human rights association, The Samosa, and its director Anwar Akhtar’
Photo credits: Ellie Kurttz