An Afghan theatre company, which escaped a Taliban attack in Kabul last August because of a last-minute change in schedule, will stage an Afghan version of Shakespeare's "Comedy of Errors" here Tuesday.
A militant attack on the compound where the group, Rah-e-Sabz, rehearsed for their play had killed 12 people Aug 19 last year.
More than 10 years after the fall of Taliban, theatre is yet to return to the cultural mainstream in Afghanistan. The ensemble cast was in the Taliban line of fire for defying the ban on stage.
The Indian Council of Cultural Relations (ICCR), which has brought the play to India, said in a statement: "The Afghan actors in the play are hoping to redefine Shakespeare - and public perception about theatre in Afghanistan by performing the play."
After India, the repertory will stage the play at the Globe Theatre in London May 30-31. It is supported by the British Council.
The play with a cross-cultural international crew will be performed in Dari language with English sub-titles at ICCR's Azad Bhavan auditorium at 7 p.m.
Recalling the attack on their theatre space, Corinne Jaber, the French director of the troupe, said: "I had asked the cast if they wanted to rehearse in the early hours of Aug 19, 2011 because it was Ramadan. But they said they didn't. The attack happened at 5.30 p.m. and the decision saved us."
The troupe's rehearsal space was damaged in the attack in the Karte Parwan district of the Afghanistan capital, which reduced much of the British headquarters in Afghanistan to a rubble.
A spokesperson for the British Council, which promotes Britain's cultural and educational relationship with other countries, said: "The troupe was unlikely to return to the compound where the attack happened because of the extent of the damage and continuing security concerns in the area".
It was currently operating from the British Embassy in Kabul, the ICCR said.
Rah-e-Sabz's adaptation of the Shakespeare comedy is set in the bustling backstreets of modern-day Kabul, places of laughter and joy that few foreigners ever get to see or hear about.
"We came into the world like brother and brother. And now let's go hand in hand, not one before another...", is the motto of the play.
The play narrates the tale of a set of identical twins, separated as babies during a sandstorm in the Afghan adaptation of Shakespeare's classic. The twins find themselves in Kabul for the first time as adults. Soon, their friends mistake the twins for one another and bewilderment abounds, as the wife of one man declares the other to be her husband, pronouncing him mad when he denies the claim.
A spokesperson for ICCR described the play as "exuberant, mystical and brilliantly farcical. Shakespeare's shortest play is a romantic comedy of confusion and reunion in Afghanistan's turbulent realpolitik, where theatre is a rare treat".
"It is always very encouraging and exciting to see the re-emergence of artistic forms in Afghanistan after a long period of turmoil and instability. Promotion of arts and culture invariably brings certain sense of normalcy and stability to any society," said Suresh K. Goel, the director general of ICCR.
"Cultural diplomacy works not only between different nations but also within the society to add strength and stability to it," he said.
"When the proposal for production of 'The Comedy of Errors' in Dari language by the Rah-e-Sabz was brought to ICCR, we accepted it immediately because of our traditional links with Afghanistan, the innovative approach to supporting the artistic traditions of the damaged society again which would lead to building of a peaceful society and because of the history of our own culturalities with Afghanistan. We remember 'Kabuliwala' of Tagore," Goel said.
Over the last decade, Shakespeare has found translations and interpretations in many cultures including in South Asia and in Africa in local languages by local actors.