New London play looks at roots of Afghan conflict

Fri Sep 17, 2010 9:15am EDT
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By Mike Collett-White

LONDON (Reuters) - A new play uses the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, and the Cold War "Great Game" it triggered, to look at why the West is mired in seemingly endless conflict there today.

"Blood and Gifts," by U.S. playwright J.T. Rogers, has opened at London's National Theater and won strong early reviews for its dramatic analysis of what has gone wrong in Afghanistan.

Rogers, who wrote Rwandan drama "The Overwhelming" which appeared at the same theater in 2006, said he opted for a behind-the-scenes look at the 1980s conflict, rather than a recreation of the fighting.

"It is more about safehouses, embassies and CIA headquarters in Washington DC," Rogers told Reuters in an interview just before the play opened.

"As a drama, the encroachment of doom and gloom off stage is always more interesting than showing the actual conflict."

Rogers said his latest play was deliberately political, but he did not see it as a judgment on superpowers' foreign policies in Afghanistan during the Soviet invasion or the West's military intervention since September 11, 2001.

"I love to write what we call political plays -- a ripping yarn set against real political events.

"People kept saying how it reflects the situation today, but of course I don't want it to be blindingly obvious. I'm not writing a play to tell people how bad the West is. I wanted to ask myself -- would I have done anything differently?"   Continued...