BBC Radio 3, 10 October 2010
A sequence of four short plays, tracing the past and present of Afghanistan,
the effect of its history on the people, as well as those who would colonize the territory, The Great Game offered
a timely reminder of just how futile most campaigns conducted by western powers in the territory have been. The British efforts
to conquer Afghanistan in 1842 are compared with the Allies' recent efforts to rid the country of Taleban influence.
The plays also look at the shifting pattern of alliances: the Americans supply arms to the Taleban, then fight against them;
they solicit Pakistani assistance, without realizing that the Taleban are themselves subsidized with Pakistani money. Osama
bin Laden might have been demonized in the west, but to many Afghans he is a role-model in his struggles against imperialism,
supported to a large extent by Saudi money. And while each power struggles to maintain its role, the Afghan people strive
to eke out a life, while the Allied soldiers fight for a cause that they appear not to understand.
Despite the obvious convictions expressed by all four dramatists, the plays rehearsed
familiar arguments characteristic of the western view of Afghanistan: the Taleban are an unseen, frequently elusive enemy with
extraordinary powers of resilience; the Americans' policies are primarily dictated by self-interest, leading them to form
dubious alliances; the British soldier remains stoical in the face of insuperable odds - both in the past and present; while
the Afghans embrace an ideology fundamentally different from that of the western colonists.
While the plays advocated total withdrawal of western troops - or, if that was not
possible, an attempt to mediate between the various factions - their mode of expression seldom deviated from
familiar binary oppositions (west/ east, soldier/ politician, colonizer/ colonized) which underpin must western analyses of
the region's politics, and which inhibit rather than promote dialogue between cultures. If a solution is to be found to the
region's strife, it can only be achieved if the various parties are prepared to move beyond familiar assumptions and
try to understand one another at a nonverbal as well as verbal level. Sadly these plays did not appear to offer any suggestions
as to how this might be accomplished. The directors were Indhu Rubasingham, Sasha Yevtushenko, Jeremy Mortimer and Jessica