Lawrence at Lawrence Hall, History recreated at Lahore’s Lawrence Hall

Lahore (Qasim Ali)
The fabled Lawrence Hall of the Old Gymkhana (now Quaid i Azam Library) was filled with the air of history and a jam-packed audience on Wednesday evening when Ajoka’s new play had its staged reading. . It was a “Lawrence hat-trick”: a play titled “Lawrence in Lahore” was presented in the Lawrence Hall, located in the famous Lawrence Gardens. Written by leading Pakistani playwright Shahid Nadeem, with US- based Professor and author Professor Fawzia Afzal Khan, the play was labelled as a “decolonial spy thriller”. 
Based on little-known presence of legendary British spy T.E. Lawrence (also known a ‘Lawrence of Arabia’) in the present-day Pakistan, the play begins with the post-World War I dismemberment of the Ottoman Empire into a number of Arab states and Western Allies’ victory celebrations at Versailles. It then moves to RAF base at Drigh Road, Karachi where Lawrence is known to have been posted in the late 1920s. 
The ambit of the play includes the mullahs-led movement against secular Afghan king Amanullah, the conversion of Kashmiri freedom struggle on communal grounds and the Western policy of dividing new Arb states and paving the way for the creation of Israel. The turbulent period of political struggle in India is spiced up with the short-lived romance between Lawrence and Akbar Jahan, daughter of the owner of Hotel Nedou’s (where now Avari Hotel stands). The presentation was a hybrid between a reading and a performance, with sporadic but effective use of period music and visuals. 
The event was a collaboration between Ajoka Theatre, Safdar Mir English Literary Club of Govt College University and the International Centre for Pakistani Writers in English at the Kinnairds College University. The Quaid-i- Azam Library hosted the event.
The actors included Dr Sameer Ahmad, Yusra Irfan, Dara Hashmi, Sameer Afzal, Ahsan Karim, Sohaib Nasir, Fatima Abbas, Uswa Javed, Hassan Atif, Jazib Ali,  Ahmad Tajy, Hammad Ali, Hassan and Waqas. Noor Khalid and Fatima Ismail handled the multi-media and sound
While introducing the play, Professor Fawzia spoke about her collaboration with Shahid Nadeem and the political context of the play. Dr. Waseem Anwar welcomed the guests on behalf of the ICPWE. Shahid Nadeem said the play gad already received international attention and has had dramatic readings at New York University Abu Dhabi and Mont Claire University, New Jersey. He also thanked the Quaid i Azam Library for its support for the event. He also announced that Ajoka is having a 5-day festival at Alhamra to mark its 40th anniversary from 2-6 May. 
Among the audience were noted scholars, faculty members, students, including Mr. Kamran Lashari, Dr Rukhsana David, VC Kinnairds College, Arts Council Chairman Razi Ahmad, Professor Shaista Siraj, senior artist and educationist Naveed Shehzad, Secretary Women’s Development Sumaira Samad, DG Quaid i Azam Library Mr Kashif Manzoor, TV anchor and actor Noor ul Hassan and Ajoka Institue director Nirvaan Nadeem.
Mrs. Naveed Shehzad and Professor Shaista Siraj-ud-din, in their comments after the play, appreciated the brilliant handling of a complex theme and the impactful presentation by the actors from Ajoka and GCU. They congratulated Ajoka on its 40th anniversary and commended its contribution to the cause of socially-meaningful, quality theatre.