Page last updated at 15:16 GMT, Thursday, 9 April 2009 16:16 UK

Putting The Great Game on stage

by Mike Wooldridge
World Affairs Correspondent


Rehearsals are under way for plays at “The Great Game” festival

A London theatre is hosting a two-month festival aimed at giving audiences a better understanding of the culture and history of a country rising ever higher up the global news agenda - Afghanistan.

The Great Game - taking its title from the nineteenth century power scramble for domination and influence in Afghanistan - brings plays, films, talks and exhibitions to London's Tricycle Theatre, a venue known for tackling for political issues.

Ordinary people

The Tricycle, under director Nicholas Kent, takes the view that Afghanistan is likely to be the most important focus of British, European and American foreign policy for at least the rest of this decade.

It hopes audiences will learn more about how the policy has evolved and how lessons from the past could be used for more informed action in the future.

The Great Game: Afghanistan. Credit:Tristram Kenton
Ramon Tikarm and Danny Rahim feature in the festival

The theatre has had advice from experts on Afghanistan - its contemporary politics, as well as its history - in devising the festival's offerings.

One lesson from history, in Nicholas Kent's view, is the need to do more to empower ordinary people in Afghanistan.

Jemima Rooper, one of the younger actors involved in the festival, says she has concluded from working on the plays that people jump too readily to cast Afghans into "the bad guys" and "the good guys".

She says it is important for her generation to understand Afghanistan better.

With plays on Darfur and Guantanamo behind him, Nicholas Kent says he thinks theatre should get involved in politics.

"We should be making people think about an issue," he says, "and that is what this Afghanistan festival is also attempting to do."

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