Wednesday 11 February 2009

Theatre of war

The Tricycle Theatre in north London has commissioned a series of plays about Afghanistan 'in the belief that the history of the country is not well known in the UK, even though thousands of British troops are there in operations against the Taliban.' Artist director Nicholas Kent stated: 'It's a history project, without being in the least dry'.

Sounds like a worthy initiative, in the best traditions of theatre as public education. But what kind of history lesson are theatre-goers likely to get? Here's Nicholas Kent again: 'We have a lot to learn about the historical backdrop: about how British and Russian self-interest caused so many of the problems in the country.' 

A lot to learn? Seems like Kent has made up his mind already. You'll notice he doesn't mention the damage caused to Afghanistan by feuding warlords or the oppressive Taliban regime. But perhaps he shares the dominant pseudo-left belief that these 'problems' were 'caused' by western 'self-interest' and that Afghans are simply passive pawns of outside forces, rather than having any agency of their own.

I hope the dramas commissioned by Tricycle end up challenging, rather than merely confirming, the political prejudices of the north London theatre-going classes.

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