The security situation leading to a change in venue and the shift from Alhamra to the Avari Hotel’s grounds ended up making a quite a difference for this year’s Lahore Lit Fest. Not only was the trademark art exhibit missing, there was a distinct shortage of wares and cultural activities to engage LLF-goers not attending the on-going sessions. I wonder why the Rafi Peer crew were no where to be seen. Their exhibit in the main hall, with a plethora of colourful puppets on display and a variety of publications describing events at the Peeru’s restaurant and theatre, was sorely missed.
Where were the LLF volunteers providing pamphlets and booklets with the programs printed? The LLF stamped mugs, tees and tote bags? The yearly special edition of Newsweek Pakistan with stories dedicated to the event. The offering of books were adequate with Readings and Liberty Books having the widest variety available. However the smattering of complementary stalls were quite sad. Aside from the Desi Writer’s Lounge, the other stalls were boring or had little to offer. Speaking of which, where were the folks from The Missing Slate? This being the fourth year of it’s existence, it may seem a bit extreme to sound so nostalgic, but this gives credit to the organisers who managed the earlier events effortlessly.
A.R. Gurney’s ‘Love Letters’ was performed by Rehana Saigol and Imran Aslam on Saturday, 20th February at the Lit Fest. Looking a vision in her sparkly dangly earrings and ruffly black dress, Saigol effortlessly transformed into the sensitive yet witty Melissa, the heroine in the duo. Aslam aptly played the responsible yet love-lorn Andy Lad the Third, whose persistent letter-writing wins the heart and soul of Melissa.
The musical interludes that punctuated sessions of letter-writing were tastefully selected – punctuating the innocence of childhood kinship or heating up the beginnings of a lustful affair- with the musical stylings of the greats such as Elvis Presley and Diana Ross at service. Arif Mahmood’s photos were sweet additions to the tenderly enacted romance on the LLF stage, documenting Melissa and Andy’s interactions from the cradle to the grave.
The seating capacity for the play underestimated the demand for live theatre as the organisers hastily lined up chairs to fill up the back of the hall. Even then, another three hundred LLF goers were barely kept outside the hall, with youngsters asked to sit up on the carpet , front-row, to empty chairs for adults.
I hope the play organizers have understood the enthusiasm for live theatrical performances and will stage such performances on the regular, preferably at more easily-accessible venues.