UK plays on Afghan history hold lessons for today

Tue Apr 14, 2009 7:58am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - An ambitious series of 12 new plays about Afghanistan opening in London this week underlines how history has a habit of repeating itself for foreign powers seeking to impose their will on an often forbidding country.

The Tricycle stage, which has a reputation for political theater, has commissioned the works which will be performed in three parts made up of four short plays each.

Tricycle director Nicolas Kent said it was time that theater in Britain, which has had a long and sometimes difficult relationship with Afghanistan and has about 8,000 troops stationed there now, tackled the topic properly.

"When I set off on this trip (to Afghanistan) I suddenly thought, 'Here we are in the middle of a war in Afghanistan and we've done umpteen plays about Iraq ... (and) there's very little coverage about Afghanistan," Kent said.

"Somehow there wasn't a debate on why we (British forces) were there and whether we should be there," he told Reuters during a break from rehearsals at the theater in north London.

For Kent, the plays combine entertainment, thought-provoking debate and a history lesson about Afghanistan.

The first group of plays, which opens on Friday, is entitled "Invasions and Independence" and covers Afghanistan from 1842 to 1930. The second is "Communism, The Mujahideen & The Taliban" (1979-1996) and the third "Enduring Freedom" (1996-2009).

They will be played individually or together over the course of a day, and form part of an Afghan cultural festival at the venue including films, documentaries and exhibitions.   Continued...