The Great Game: Afghanistan

The Great Game: Afghanistan is a British series of short plays on the history of Afghanistan and foreign intervention there, from the First Anglo-Afghan War to the present day. It is organised into three sets of four plays and draws its name from the 19th and 20th century Great Game, a geopolitical struggle for dominance between The British and Russian Empires. The main plays are linked by monologues and duologues giving historical background and verbatim theatre edited by Richard Norton-Taylor from modern figures linked with western involvement in Afghanistan, such as William Dalrymple, Hillary Clinton, Stanley McChrystal and David Richards.

The Great Game: Afghanistan
Written byVarious
Date premiered17 April 2009
Place premieredLondon
SubjectHistory of Afghanistan
SettingAfghanistan, 1842 to present

Premiering at the Tricycle Theatre in London in 2009, it had another 6-week run there before a tour of the US. The cast included Michael Cochrane and Jemma Redgrave and the directors were Nicolas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham. It was noted for the significant interest shown in the production by the Pentagon, as an educational tool for US soldiers and officials involved in the war in Afghanistan.[1]


Invasions and IndependenceEdit

This part covers the period from 1842 to 1929.

  1. Bugles at the Gates of Jalalabad by Stephen Jeffreys – Four buglers outside Jalalabad keep watch for survivors from the Massacre of Elphinstone's Army, while Lady Florentia Sale reads her diary.
  2. Durand’s Line by Ron Hutchinson – Amir Abdul Rahman and Sir Mortimer Durand discuss the eponymous Durand Line after the Second Anglo-Afghan War.
  3. Campaign by Amit Gupta – A British civil servant in the new UK coalition government tries to draw on the history of Mahmud Tarzi to produce a British withdrawal strategy in 2010.
  4. Now is the Time by Joy WilkinsonAmānullāh Khān, his wife Soraya Tarzi and her father Mahmud Tarzi are stuck in a car stuck in the snow in their escape from Kabul in 1929.

Communism, the Mujahideen and the TalibanEdit

This part covers the period from 1981 to 2001.

  1. Black Tulips by David Edgar – Groups of Russian conscripts from 1987 back to 1981 are briefed for their role in the Soviet–Afghan War
  2. Wood for the Fire by Lee Blessing – Two CIA operatives deal differently with the growing power of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence to supply the Mujahideen for their war on the Soviets. (The original play in this slot in 2009 was JT Rogers' Blood and Gifts on a similar topic,[2] but this was left out of the 2010 run, since it had been expanded into a full-length play in the meantime to be produced at the Royal National Theatre in October 2010.[3])
  3. Miniskirts of Kabul by David Greig – A Western journalist imagines a meeting with president Mohammad Najibullah as the Taliban closes in on his refuge in the UN compound in Kabul in 1996.[4]
  4. The Lion of Kabul by Colin Teevan – Two men have killed UN aid workers and the Taliban throw them to Marjan, the one-eyed lion in Kabul Zoo, with the UN's unwilling collusion.

Enduring FreedomEdit

Named after Operation Enduring Freedom, it covers the period from 2001 to the present day.

  1. Honey by Ben Ockrent – A CIA man tries and fails to persuade Ahmad Shah Massoud to help resume American intervention in Afghanistan, just before Massoud's assassination in 2001.
  2. The Night is Darkest Before Dawn by Abi Morgan – An Afghan widow attempts to re-open her husband's school in the wake of the September 11 attacks and American intervention.[5]
  3. On the Side of the Angels by Richard Bean – An aid worker gets involved in Afghan women's rights against her will, when two young girls are betrothed to older men to resolve a land rights dispute.[6]
  4. Canopy of Stars by Simon Stephens – Two British soldiers guarding the Kajaki Dam discuss military life and the justification for intervention.

Production historyEdit

  • Tricycle Theatre, London – 17 April to league

14 June 2009 (premiere)[7]


  1. ^ Marks, Peter (9 January 2011). "Play about Afghan conflicts gets encore performance with Pentagon blessing". Retrieved 27 April 2018 – via
  2. ^ "Designing the Great Game". Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  3. ^ Spencer, Charles (15 September 2010). "Blood and Gifts, National Theatre, review". The Daily Telegraph. London.
  4. ^ Brantley, Ben (7 September 2010). "The Curtain Rises: Enter, Reality". New York Times. Retrieved 24 August 2012.
  5. ^ Morgan, Abi (9 April 2009). "Abi Morgan: How I put the Taliban on stage". The Guardian. London.
  6. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (1 April 2009). "England People Very Nice writer courts fresh controversy with Afghanistan play". The Guardian. London.
  7. ^ Higgins, Charlotte (11 February 2009). "Theatre offers Afghanistan history lessons". The Guardian. London.
  8. ^
  9. ^ "The Great Game, Drama on 3 - BBC Radio 3". BBC. Retrieved 27 April 2018.
  10. ^ Norton-Taylor, Richard (9 January 2011). "London theatre troupe to perform play on Afghan history for US military". The Guardian. London.
  11. ^ Marks, Peter (9 January 2011). "'Great Game' gets encore, with Pentagon's applause". The Washington Post.

External linksEdit