THE GREAT GAME: AFGHANISTAN Returns To The Tricycle Theatre July 23-August 29

The Great Game: Afghanistan - a festival exploring Afghan culture and history through twelve plays, a five day film programme, a ceramic exhibition and discussion sessions returns to the Tricycle Theatre for a limited run from 23 July until 29 August 2010 with a press day on 31 July.

Following the run at the Tricycle, the production will embark on an American tour from 5 September - 19 December 2010, visiting The Shakespeare at the Harman, Washington, The Guthrie at The McGuire Proscenium, Minneapolis, Berkeley Rep at The Roda, UCLA, The Freud Playhouse, Los Angeles and The Public at The Skirball, New York.

Directed by the Tricycle's Artistic Director Nicolas Kent and Theatre Director Indhu Rubasingham, assisted by Rachel Grunwald, The Great Game: Afghanistan will present the world premiere of a new play by Lee Blessing, alongside the plays premiered last season by writers Stephen Jeffreys, Ron Hutchinson, Amit Gupta, Joy Wilkinson, David Edgar, David Greig, Colin Teevan, Ben Ockrent, Abi Morgan, Richard Bean and Simon Stephens. These plays will be accompanied by three monologues by Iranian writer and documentary maker Siba Shakib and verbatim pieces by the Guardian's Security Editor, Richard Norton Taylor, to reflect the present situation in Afghanistan, taken from interviews with American and British Generals, Afghan politicians, US and British politicians and contributors to the Obama review on the Afpak policy.

All plays will be presented in repertoire throughout the festival. Designs are by Pamela Howard and Miriam Nabarro, lighting is by James Farncombe, with sound by Tom Lishman. Full casting for all plays will be announced shortly.

Nicolas Kent, the Tricycle's Artistic Director said "The original intention in mounting The Great Game was to inform audiences of the history of Western involvement in Afghanistan since the early 19th century until the present day. The recent Obama Afpak policy review, the continuing ISAF operations in Helmand and in Afghanistan generally, and the mounting military and civilian casualty figures emphasise the importance of this. We very much hope that this trilogy and the theatre can play its part in continuing to stimulate the public's discussion and debate on what is currently the most important focus of UK and American foreign policy."

The Great Game: Afghanistan is supported by The British Council.

Part One: Invasions & Independence 1842-1930
Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad by Stephen Jeffreys
In January 1842 a contingent of British soldiers, 16,000 strong, retreated from Kabul. Only a few stragglers were left alive in the British Army's worst defeat in history. The General's wife, Lady Sale, documents the battles in the Hindu Kush; whilst four buglers sound the advance at the Gates of Jalalabad as a signal to any survivors.

Stephen Jeffreys' plays includes Like Dolls or Angels for the National Student Drama Festival, adaptations of Hard Times for Pocket Theatre Cumbria and Carmen 1936 for the Tricycle Theatre, Returning Fire, The Garden of Eden and Valued Friends at Hampstead Theatre - winning him the Evening Standard and Critics' Circle Most Promising Playwright Awards, The Clink for Paines Plough, A Jovial Crew for the Royal Shakespeare Company, A Going Concern for Hampstead Theatre, The Libertine for the Royal Court - for which he also wrote a screenplay starring Johnny Depp, Samantha Morton and John Malkovich, I Just Stopped By To See The Man for the Royal Court and The Art of War for Sydney Theatre Company.

Durand's Line by Ron Hutchinson
Amir Abdul Rahman has kept the Indian Foreign Secretary, Sir Mortimer Durand, cooped up in Kabul for weeks. Sir Mortimer is desperate to negotiate the division of Waziristan to avenge the humiliation of his father's name. Rahman fights to protect his country's borders from Imperialist map-making.

Ron Hutchinson's plays include Topless Mum and Moonlight and Magnolias - both of which enjoyed critically acclaimed runs at the Tricycle, Says I Says He and Rat In The Skull for the Royal Court and an adaptation of Mikhail Bulgakov's Flight for the National Theatre. In Spring 2009 the University of Missouri, Kansas City premiered his adaptation of Bulgakov's The Master and Margarita. He is an Emmy winning feature and television writer whose credits include Murderers Among Us, The Simon Wiesenthal Story, The Josephine Baker Story, The Burning Season, The Ten Commandments and Traffic (USA Network mini-series) and has taught screenwriting at the American Film Institute.

Campaign by Amit Gupta
Harry Hawk MP, Parliamentary Private Secretary to the Foreign Secretary needs to find a new approach to policy in Afghanistan. Hawk summons the expert, Professor Khan to advise on the potential success of the 'supplementary plan' conceived by the civil service. While Hawk hopes that history can repeat itself, Khan is not convinced that it will.

Amit Gupta wrote his first play, Touch, in 1998, which was a winner of the Royal Court Young Writers' Competition. Gupta has been a Writer in Residence at the Leicester Haymarket Theatre and was profiled as one of Screen International's Writer/Director Stars of Tomorrow, 2005. Gupta now writes for stage, screen and radio. He has directed a number of plays, Loveless for Channel 4, and last year wrote and directed an award-winning short film: Love Story. He is currently working on feature film adaptations of his Radio 4 play Jadoo and Owen Sheers' acclaimed novel Resistance, which will be shooting later this year.

Now Is the Time by Joy Wilkinson
King Amanullah, his wife Soraya and his father-in-law, Tarzi are fleeing the capital. Their car is marooned in the snow, while Pashtun tribes and Tajik forces march towards Kabul. Will the Soviet Union help? Will the British interfere?

Joy Wilkinson's writing credits include Fair for Finborough Theatre and the Trafalgar Studios and The Aquatic Ape for the Edinburgh Festival and Worship Ensemble Theater in New York. She recently completed an attachment at the National Theatre Studio, is writing a new play for the Liverpool Everyman/Playhouse and has written a play for the Tricycle's next season of plays Women, Power and Politics. She has dramatised numerous Agatha Christie novels for BBC Radio 4. She was a graduate of the BBC's inaugural Writer's Academy and is now a lead writer on Doctors.

Part Two: Communism, The Mujahideen & The Taliban 1979-1996

Black Tulips by David Edgar
1979, an army of a super-power invaded Afghanistan. Soviet troops were sent to combat backwardness and banditry, to defend women's rights, to build hospitals and schools. They thought they would all be home in a few months.

David Edgar is one of England's foremost political playwrights and has long standing relationships with the Royal Shakespeare Company and the National Theatre. His recent plays include Testing the Echo for Out of Joint, and a stage adaptation of Julian Barnes' Arthur and George for the Birmingham Rep. He won the Arts Council's John Whiting Award for Destiny, the Olivier and Tony Awards for Best Play for his adaptation of Nicholas Nickleby, the Plays and Players' Best Play Award for Maydays and the Evening Standard Best Play Award for Pentecost. His book about playwriting - How Plays Work - was published last year, and he is President of the Writers' Guild of Great Britain.

Wood For The Fire by Lee Blessing
In order to de-stabilise the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan the CIA and ISI (Pakistan's Intelligence agency) formed an unholy alliance with the Mujahideen. American weaponry was supplied to support the Jihad, and the Russians were eventually forced to withdraW. Wood for the Fire explores one of many facets of this secret war.

The Great Game: Afghanistan will present the world premiere of Lee Blessing's Wood For The Fire. Blessing's A Walk In The Woods ran on Broadway and in the West End and was nominated for both a Pulitzer prize and Olivier Award. Blessing's plays have been seen on and off-Broadway as well as in resident theatres throughout the US. Recent openings have included A Body of Water at Primary Stages in New York, Great Falls at the Humana Festival of New American Plays at The Actors Theatre of Louisville and When We Go Upon The Sea at InterAct Theater in Philadelphia.

Miniskirts of Kabul by David Greig
The Taliban are closing in on Kabul: shells and rockets are exploding around the capital. A woman is interviewing President Najibullah, who has sought refuge in the UN compound. He talks about fashion, communism, torture and whisky, but time is running out.

David Greig's award winning work includes Midsummer for the Traverse and Soho Theatres, Damascus for the Tricycle Theatre, Brewers Fayre, Outlying Islands and Europe for the Traverse Theatre, The American Pilot for the Royal Shakespeare Company and Soho Theatre, Ramallah for the Royal Court, Pyrenees for Paines Plough and Caligula and The Cosmonaut's Last Message to the Woman He Once Loved in the Former Soviet Union for the Donmar Warehouse. His adaptations include The Bacchae for the Edinburgh International Festival and Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith, Tintin in Tibet for the Barbican in 2005 and The Playhouse in 2007, When The Bulbul Stopped Singing for the Traverse Theatre and Caligula for the Donmar Warehouse. Greig's new version of Peter Pan will be produced by the National Theatre of Scotland in April and his acclaimed adaptation of Strindberg's Creditors, first performed at the Donmar Warehouse in 2008, will open at BAM later this year.

The Lion of Kabul by Colin Teevan
Two Afghan aid workers disappear while distributing rice. Rabia, their UN Director of Operations is determined to discover what has happened to them. The problem is her organisation does not recognise the Taliban, and the Taliban do not recognise her. She seeks justice, but who is to dispense it?

Colin Teevan's plays include How Many Miles to Basra? for West Yorkshire Playhouse, Amazonia with Paul Heritage for the Young Vic, The Diver and The Bee both with Hideki Noda for Soho Theatre, Monkey! for the Young Vic and National Theatre, Missing Persons: Four Tragedies & Roy Keane for the Assembly Rooms and Trafalgar Studios, Alcmaeon in Corinth for Live! Newcastle and The Walls for the National Theatre. His adaptations include Kafka's Monkey which premiered in March at the Young Vic followed by a world tour, Don Quixote for West Yorkshire Playhouse and Svejk and Peer Gynt, both commissioned by the National Theatre of Scotland, the latter of which had a revival at the Barbican last year before going on tour. His translations include Bacchai for the National Theatre, Iph for the Lyric Theatre, Belfast and Cuckoos and Marathon for the Gate Theatre. Teevan is an Artistic Associate of West Yorkshire Playhouse.

Part Three: Enduring Freedom 1996-2010

Honey by Ben Ockrent
While civil war rages, a lone CIA agent realises the dangers of American disengagement. He's found an 'in' to persuade Commander Masoud, the Lion of Panjshir, to help them get back into the game. But with the Taliban closing in on Kabul, will it be enough?

Ben Ockrent's first play, The Pleasure Principle, was produced at the Tristan Bates Theatre in October 2007. In 2008 he developed Khoa San, a new comedy drama series for BBC3/World Productions, as well as Joe Mistry, a comedy series for Hartswood Film and Television and Kidnapped, a new drama series for BBC3/Company Pictures. Ockrent is also currently writing a new comedy series for BBC3 and a new drama series for Channel4/Cowboy Films.

The Night Is Darkest Before the Dawn by Abi Morgan
The widowed Huma is trying to re-open her husband's school following the American bombing and 'liberation' of Afghanistan; however she needs to persuade six more girls to attend. But Behrukh's father is more concerned with his opium crop and who will harvest it.

Abi Morgan's plays include Fast Food for Manchester Royal Exchange, Skinned and Sleeping Around for Paines Plough, Tiny Dynamite for the Traverse, Tender for Hampstead, Splendour - which won a Fringe First at the Edinburgh Festival in 2000 and Fugee for the National Theatre. Her television work includes My Fragile Heart, Murder, Tsunami - The Aftermath, White Girl and Sex Traffic, the multi award winning drama for Channel 4. Her film writing includes Brick Lane, an adaptation of Monica Ali's bestseller. She is currently developing a six part serial for BBC2 and films for BBC Films and FilmFour includingThe Invisible Woman and The Story of You . Royal Wedding, the drama she has written for BBC 2, will be broadcast in Spring 2010.

On the Side of the Angels by Richard Bean
Jackie and Graham are working for Direct Action World Poverty east of Herat. They are thrown together to work on a new project about land rights. In trying to help and settle local disputes, the results are not what they expected, as Bollywood, women's rights and tribal disputes create a toxic mix.

Richard Bean's most recent play England People Very Nice premiered at the National Theatre. His other writing credits include The English Game, produced by Headlong, In The Club for Hampstead Theatre, a version of Moliere's The Hypochondriac for the Almeida, Harvest, Honeymoon Suite, Under The Whaleback and Toast all for the Royal Court, The God Botherers for the Bush Theatre, Le Pub! and The Mentalists for the National Theatre, Up On Roof for Hull Truck, Smack Family Robinson for Live Theatre Newcastle and Mr England for Sheffield Crucible Theatre.

Canopy of Stars by Simon Stephens
In a bunker guarding the Kajaki Dam, two soldiers talk of chips and gravy, football, women and whether the British should start to negotiate with the Taliban insurgents. A searing insight into soldiers at war, and what happens when they go home.

Simon Stephens' recent plays include the award-winning Punk Rock for the Lyric Hammersmith and Royal Exchange Theatre, Sea Wall for the Traverse Theatre and Bush Theatre, Heaven for the Traverse Theatre and Òran Mór and Pornography for the Edinburgh Festival and Tricycle Theatre. His isHisplays for The Royal Court Theatre include Bluebird, Herons, Country Music and Motortown. His other plays include Port for the Royal Exchange Theatre, for which he won the Pearson Award for Best Play, One Minute for the Traverse and Bush Theatres, On the Shore of the Wide World - which won the 2005 Olivier Award for Best New Play and Harper Regan, both for the National Theatre. Stephen has co-written A Thousand Stars Explode in the Sky which will open at the Lyric Theatre, Hammersmith in May and his new version of Jarry's Ubu Roi will be staged by Toneelgroep, Amsterdam later this year.

Director's Biographies

Nicolas Kent is Artistic Director of the Tricycle and most recently directed the world premiere of Frank McGuinness' production of Greta Garbo Came To Donegal. Other productions Kent has directed as Artistic Director of the Tricycle include The Great White Hope - which he also staged for the Royal Shakespeare Company, Trouble in Mind, Wine in the Wilderness, A Love Song for Ulster, Macbeth, 10 Rounds, the 20th Anniversary production of Mustapha Matura's Playboy of the West Indies, Walk Hard - Talk Loud, How Long Is Never?, Darfur A Response and The War Next Door. He has also directed all the Tricycle Tribunal Plays and 2007's controversial Called To Account in which Tony Blair was put on trial for crimes of aggression against Iraq. His television directing credits include The Workshop, Pentecost, Sharing Time, Colour of Justice, Justifying War and Half the Picture.

Indhu Rubasingham most recently directed Disconnect at The Royal Court Theatre and her production of Lynn Nottage's Ruined will open at The Almeida Theatre next month. She is directing the Tricycle Theatre's next season of plays Women, Power and Politics, running from June 2010. Previously for the Tricycle she directed Detaining Justice as part of the theatre's Not Black and White season as well as Fabulation, Starstruck and Darfur: How Long Is Never? Her other directing credits include Wuthering Heights for Birmingham Rep, Ramayana for the National Theatre and Birmingham Rep, Free Outgoing for the Royal Court, Pure Gold for Soho Theatre, Heartbreak House for Watford Palace Theatre, Yellowman and Anna In The Tropics at Hampstead Theatre, Romeo and Juliet for Chichester Festival Theatre, Tanika Gupta's Sugar Mummies, Roy Williams' Lift Off and Club Land all for the Royal Court and The Waiting Room by Tanika Gupta for the National Theatre.


There will be a five day film festival with discussions and Q&As including a visit from Afghan Film Director Siddiq Barmak. The programme, which runs from 23 -27 July, comprises:

Talabgar (The Suitor) directed by Khaleq A'lil
Opium War directed by Siddiq Barmak
The Wall directed by Siddiq Barmak
The Stranger directed by Siddiq Barmak
This Is My Destiny directed by Lucy Gordon & Bahareh Hosseini
Afghan Star directed by Havana Marking
Silencing the Song: An Afghan Fallen Star directed by Havana Marking
Vote Afghanistan! directed by Havana Marking & Martin Herring
Rabia of Bactria directed by Wahid Naziri
Addicted in Afghanistan directed by Jawed Taiman

Istalif Ceramics - 23 July - 29 August

For thousands of years Afghanistan has been producing beautifully decorated ceramic bowls and tiles. Istalif is a village near Kabul where there is a strong tradition of pottery made using locally sourced clay. Their ancient techniques have changed little over time. Turquoise Mountain has been working with the potters in Istalif for three years, providing jobs and a regular income for local families. Three hundred bowls will be on sale from between £30 - £50.


A number of discussions focussing on Afghanistan will be held throughout the season on Tuesday evenings at 8pm.

Reporting Afghanistan (Tuesday 27 July)
Aiding Afghanistan (Tuesday 3 August)
Governing Afghanistan (Tuesday 10 August)
Soldiering Afghanistan (Tuesday 17 August)
Protesting Afghanistan (Tuesday 24 August)

The British Council is the United Kingdom's international non-profit organization for cultural relations and education opportunities. We build engagement and trust for the UK through the exchange of knowledge and ideas between people worldwide. In the US, we increase recognition of the variety of higher education opportunities available in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland, and facilitate institutional collaborations between the US and UK. Through transatlantic artistic partnerships, we introduce Americans to high-quality, groundbreaking creative work from the UK and our climate change programs support a network of young leaders who are committed to tackling climate change globally and in their own communities. We also develop initiatives that give a voice to the next generation of leaders on both sides of the Atlantic, encouraging them to work together to explore solutions to current and future global issues. With offices in Washington, New York and Los Angeles, the British Council USA also builds global partnerships with US-based institutions to support our work around the world. For more information, please visit

The Tricycle Theatre is funded by Brent Council, Arts Council England and London Councils and is a registered charity 276892.

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