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Last Updated: Thursday, 8 September 2005, 14:06 GMT 15:06 UK
Shakespeare play staged in Kabul
Afghan actresses performing Love's Labour's Lost
The actresses appearing in the play did not wear veils or burqas
A production of Love's Labour's Lost, set in Afghanistan and translated into the Dari language, has played to packed audiences in the capital city, Kabul.

The William Shakespeare play is one of the first to be staged in the country since the fall of the Taleban in 2001.

"Theatre is much more popular than television," said Afghan playwright Aziz Elyas. "But during the Taleban's time it wasn't allowed."

The show, which ran for five nights, was sponsored by the British Council.

"It's a story about the survival of romantic love in difficult circumstances, like in Muslim countries and especially Afghanistan," said its representative, Malcolm Jardine.

Theatre is making a comeback in the land-locked country according to Aziz, whose latest work History is Witness won first prize at this week's Kabul Theatre Summer Festival.

"There's starting to be more and more shows being put on now," he said. "It's wonderful."

Strict taboo

The US Agency for International Development has even started using roving troupes of actors to stage plays in rural areas to educate people about forthcoming elections.

The actresses in Love's Labour's Lost did not hide behind veils or burqas and were allowed to flirt with their co-stars - a strict taboo in the world beyond the playhouse.

The plot has been recast so it features Afghan characters and locations, instead of the French ones used in the Bard's original.

"Shakespeare is so adaptable because he writes universal truths of human experience," said co-adaptor Steven Landrigan.

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