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Tricycle to host Afghanistan Festival

First Published 12 February 2009, Last Updated 13 February 2009

The Tricycle theatre has announced a unique, three-month festival entitled The Great Game: Afghanistan that will explore the culture and history of Afghanistan.

The Great Game: Afghanistan previews from 17 April, with a press opening on 24 April, and runs until 14 June. With 15 plays running throughout the festival, a ten-day film programme (1-10 May), Qawali Sham Sufi Group concerts (4 & 5 May), ceramic and photography exhibitions, discussion sessions (12, 19 & 26 May), talks (5, 11 May & 1 June) and play readings (18 May), the festival will offer an insight into one of the media’s most talked about countries.

Nicolas Kent, Artistic Director of the Tricycle theatre, said, “Afghanistan will be at the forefront of Western foreign policy for the next decade. We get daily reports on Afghanistan in the media – yet we know very little about how the foreign policy of Britain, America, Europe and Russia towards that country has evolved over the past 175 years.”

Divided into three parts, the festival sees the world premieres of 12 plays. Tackling the period 1842-1930, entitled Invasions And Independence, are playwrights Stephen Jeffreys (Bugles At The Gates Of Jalalabad), Ron Hutchinson (Durand’s Line), Amit Gupta (Campaign) and Joy Wilkinson (Now Is The Time). David Edgar (Black Tulips), J.T Rogers (Blood And Gifts), David Greig (Miniskirts Of Kabul) and Colin Teevan (The Lion Of Kabul) have set their plays between 1979 and 1996 for part two of the festival, entitled Communism, The Mujahideen And The Taliban. Lastly part three, Enduring Freedom, is based around the events between 1996 and 2009, with Ben Ockrent (Honey), Abi Morgan (The Night Is Darkest Before The Dawn), Richard Bean (On The Side Of The Angels) and Simon Stephens (Canopy Of Stars) writing about the recent past and current state of the country.

The plays will run in repertoire throughout the three-month festival. Each piece, based around or set in Afghanistan, tackles different themes, varying from the story of Britain’s worst defeat in Kabul in 1842 (Bugles At The Gates Of Jalalabad), to arms deal negotiations (Blood And Gifts), to the story of a widow attempting to open a school and persuade girls to attend (The Night Is Darkest Before The Dawn). All will be directed by Kent and Indhu Rubasingham, assisted by Rachel Grunwald. Rubasingham has previously directed Fabulation and Starstruck at the Tricycle. Her other work includes Free Outgoing at the Royal Court and Ramayana and The Waiting Room at the National Theatre.

Readings of two further plays, – Borders by Paven Virk and Eristavi Reserve by Adam Brace – both developed by the Tricycle in association with the National Theatre Studio, will take place on 18 May. Virk’s play is based around a family’s celebration when a daughter gains a place at university and her father, an ambitious General in Pakistan’s ISI, is promoted. Brace’s Eristavi Reserve takes place in 1988 during the Afghan army’s retraining by Soviet forces.

The last of the 15 plays to premiere at the festival is Naomi Wallace’s No Such Cold Thing (12, 19 and 26 May). Telling the story of a reunion between two sisters in a desert near Kabul, Wallace’s play precedes discussions and debates on Britain and NATO’s involvement in Afghanistan.

Kent added, “The aim of the festival is to help audiences understand more about Afghanistan, and to open up debate, appreciation and discussion on Afghanistan’s importance to Britain as we move into the second decade of the 21st century.”

For more information on the events taking place during The Great Game: Afghanistan, check the Tricycle Theatre’s website,, for regular updates and detailed schedules.



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