Politics and theatre are, and have always been, inextricably linked. So following on from my previous post, this one explores real theatre on the streets, this time in Nepal. I came across an article in the South Asia Monitor, written by Deepesh Paudal and originally published in The Kantipur Daily, Road Act. Sadak Natak or Street Theatre emerged in Nepal in the 1980s, during the height of monarchial rule, as a way of protesting against the excesses of the ruling royal family. Ashesh Malla, Artistic Director of Sarvanam, a Nepali theatre company, is credited for starting the movement and in a country where many live in rural poverty, street theatre has proved to be an effective way of raising awareness of a host of issues, as well as entertaining people.
However, in his article, Paudal sounds a note of of caution about the continuing existence of Nepalese street theatre:
Fading interest The development of street theatre in Nepal has seen its peaks and troughs. Periodically, some have been critical, raising questions on its objective. Some of them have tagged street drama as a mere developmental play (bikase natak), ‘farming dollars’, while others have sternly criticised it for an absence of aesthetics. Non-governmental organisations’ and other social institutions’ direct or indirect involvement in street theatre s has drawn both positive and negative remarks from stakeholders. The lack of transparency in fund allocation and management has frequently put theatre groups under scrutiny, often exposing their dependency on donors and foreign aids. Additionally, the progress of cyber entertainment and communication has widely overshadowed the essence of street theatre . Even the interest of the pioneers and of those who had been actively performing in street drama s in the past has significantly dropped. Under these circumstances, the sustainability and even the survival of street theatre are increasingly in a vulnerable state. All theatre aficionados need to quickly apprehend that appreciating the contributions of street theatre just as well as that of the commercial theatre will help save this form of art from extinction.
Little is written (in english, anyway) about the history of theatre in Nepal. Even in Jukka O. Miettinen’s wonderful online book Asian Traditional Theatre and Dance, Nepal fails to get a mention. It does, however, get a few pages in The World Encyclopedia of Contemporary Theatre: Asia/Pacific as it does in Ashis Sengupt’s book Mapping South Asia Through Contemporary Theatre (both available through Google Books). You can also read a interesting overview of the history of Nepalese theatre here on HubPages.