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The Great Game: Afghanistan - The Plays

Preview by Lizzie Guilfoyle

There will be 12 plays charting the history of Afghanistan from 1842 to the present day in the Tricycle Theatre’s The Great Game: Afghanistan festival, which returns to the venue for a limited run – from July 23 to August 29, 2010.

PART ONE: Invasions and Independence 1842-1930

Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad by Stephen Jeffreys (The Libertine).

In January 1842, a contingent of British soldiers, 16,000 strong, retreated from Kabul. Only a few stragglers were left alive in the British Army’s worst defeat in history. The General’s wife, Lady Sale, documents the battles in the Hindu Kush; whilst four buglers sound the advance at the Gates of Jalalabad as a signal to any survivors.

Durand’s Line by Ron Hutchinson (Topless Mum, Moonlight and Magnolias).

Amir Abdul Rahman has kept the Indian Foreign Secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand, cooped up in Kabul for weeks. Sir Mortimer is desperate to negotiate the division of Waziristan to avenge the humiliation of his father’s name. Rahman fights to protect his country’s borders from Imperialist map-making.

Campaign by Amit Gupta (Touch).

Harry Hawk MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary, needs to find a new approach to policy in Afghanistan. Hawk summons the expert, Professor Khan to advise on the potential success of the ‘supplementary plan’ conceived by the civil service. While Hawk hopes that history can repeat itself, Khan is not convinced that it will.

Now Is the Time by Joy Wilkinson (Fair, The Aquatic Ape).

King Amanullah, his wife Soraya and his father-in-law, Tarzi are fleeing the capital. Their car is marooned in the snow, while Pashtun tribes and Tajik forces march towards Kabul. Will the Soviet Union help? Will the British interfere?

PART TWO: Communism, The Mujahideen and The Taliban 1979-1996

Black Tulips by David Edgar (Testing The Echo, Destiny, Maydays, Pentecost).

In 1979, an army of a super-power invaded Afghanistan. Soviet troops were sent to combat backwardness and banditry, to defend women’s rights, to build hospitals and schools. They thought they would all be home in a few months.

Wood For The Fire by Lee Blessing (A Walk in the Woods, A Body of Water, Great Falls, When we Go Upon the Sea).

In order to de-stabilise the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the CIA and ISI (Pakistan’s Intelligence agency) formed an unholy alliance with the Mujahideen. American weaponry was supplied to support the Jihad, and the Russians were eventually forced to withdraw. Wood for the Fire explores one of many facets of this secret war.

Miniskirts of Kabul by David Greig (Damascus, The American Pilot, Ramallah, The Cosmonaut’s Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union).

The Taliban are closing in on Kabul: shells and rockets are exploding around the capital. A woman is interviewing President Najibullah, who has sought refuge in the UN compound. He talks about fashion, communism, torture and whisky, but time is running out.

The Lion of Kabul by Colin Teevan (How Many Miles to Basra?, Amazonia, The Walls).

Two Afghan aid workers disappear while distributing rice. Rabia, their UN Director of Operations is determined to discover what has happened to them. The problem is her organisation does not recognise the Taliban, and the Taliban do not recognise her. She seeks justice, but who is to dispense it?

PART THREE: Enduring Freedom 1996-2009

Honey by Ben Ockrent (The Pleasure Principle).

While civil war rages, a lone CIA agent realises the dangers of American disengagement. He’s found an ‘in’ to persuade Commander Masoud, the Lion of Panjshir, to help them get back into the game. But with the Taliban closing in on Kabul, will it be enough?

The Night Is Darkest Before the Dawn by Abi Morgan (Tender, Splendour, Fugee)

The widowed Huma is trying to re-open her husband’s school following the American bombing and ‘liberation’ of Afghanistan; however she needs to persuade six more girls to attend. But Behrukh’s father is more concerned with his opium crop and who will harvest it.

On the Side of the Angels by Richard Bean (England People Very Nice, The Hypochondriac, Toast).

Jackie and Graham are working for Direct Action World Poverty east of Herat. They are thrown together to work on a new project about land rights. In trying to help and settle local disputes, the results are not what they expected, as Bollywood, women’s rights and tribal disputes create a toxic mix.

Canopy of Stars by Simon Stephens (On the Shore of the Wide World, Harper Regan).

In a bunker guarding the Kajaki Dam, two soldiers talk of chips and gravy, football, women and whether the British should start to negotiate with the Taliban insurgents. A searing insight into soldiers at war, and what happens when they go home.