It began recently on the 8th of Feb, Islamabad based Kopy Kat productions returned to the city by the sea, this time with their next theaterical production venture 'Aangan Terha'. Written by the legendary veteren of television Anwar Maqsood, it is the re-enactment of a very famous comedy satire from Pakistan television from the 1980's. The story revolves around a retired Urdu Speaking civil service personell and the people in his life, including his wife Jahan Aara, his borderline bisexual servant Akbar, and his overly jolly Punjabi neighbor Choudhary Saab. Anwar Maqsood once again proves that he is quite the magician with the pen, managing to do a spectacular job of re-writting his television show for the stage and getting it ready for today's audiences including the youth which came out in large numbers. Sold out shows have been the norm since the show debuted. The production quality and the acting that has gone onto this theaterical production is no doubt excellent, but the management of services that has gone into this production by the young team behind this play has been a cause of frustration and anger for audiences and those that are regular patrons to the vibrant theaterical scene in the city by the sea.
As Kopy Kat production had previously done so with the epic 'Pawnay 14 August', they had once again over sold tickets for the performances of Aangan Terha. When I went to see Pawnay 14 August last March, it was unlike anything I had experienced in my years as being a regular attendee of theater in Karachi. As brilliant and legendary as Pawnay 14 August was, even weeknight shows were sold well and truly beyond capacity. If I remember correctly it was a wednesday night, and they had sold easily about 20-25% more seats than the capacity of the main auditorium at the Arts Council of Pakistan in Karachi. It was chaos, though me and my friends we managed to get reasonable seats, there were dozens of people sitting on the steps, on the floor right in front of the stage and standing around the aisle's and exits creating a very clausterphobic environment of sorts.
Even last night, they had managed to do the same, they sold more tickets then the venue capacity. The crowd I am guessing till now had been fairly patient with them, as most people attending this play were those that had also attended Pawnay 14 August. Last night finally the crowd raised up in protest to the mis management of the event over the state of affairs with seating. Dozens of paying audience members had to go through the performance without having a seat to sit on, what made matters worse were the excuses being made by one of the organizers, the gentlemen with the long hair as opposed to apologizing to the audiences. The delayed apology and the excuses I am guessing is what further aggrevated the crowd, one gentlemen in the audience got up and started questioning why they did not consider audience safety as a priority, since the over selling of tickets meant that not only were they more people in the auditorium beyond capacity, but those who were not fortunate to get seats found themselves sitting on aisles, steps and blocking the main exit as well as the emergency exit of the auditorium, should a fire or some other unfortunate mishap takes places, its a stampede disaster in the making.
It wasn't until Anwar Maqsood finally came on stage and apologized on behalf of the production company that the crowd relatively calmed down, however by then a fair few audience members who had failed to find seats had also walked out demanding refunds. My best guess is that the reason why Kopy Kats production persisted with this policy of selling as many tickets as they can for each performance because till now the audience had yet to speak up. It was truly refreshing to see the audience finally speak up against unfair customer service practices, which are not uncommon in the hospitality and entertainment sector of Pakistan. There is just no excusing customer exploitation, no body here is questioning the business practices and business model of Kopy Kats production, we patrons of the theater are just concerned about being treated unfairly in a country like Pakistan where fair play is rarely part and parcel of the life of millions. It would be unfair to assume whether this was done out of pure greed, public pressure or plain carelessness, we may never know the truth. With this I sincerely hope Kopy Kat Productions takes this criticism in good spirit and has some food for thought for the remainder of its performances.