Articles for the ‘Nicolas Kent’s Diary of the Great Game Tour’ Category


How The Great Game emptied the Pentagon

Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011 by Tricycle

Featured in The Guardian (2 March 2011), read Nicolas Kent’s diary of the Pentagon performances.

Three years’ ago as yet another script about the war in Iraq crossed my desk I became very aware that the story had moved on, but that the arts and, to some extent the media, had not. Afghanistan was going to be the challenge for Western foreign policy for the next decade, yet in early 2008 there was not much reporting of it, and no artistic response to the war except for The Kite Runner. I knew little about Afghanistan, but was determined to find out more. It soon became evident to me that if we were to do anything theatrically meaningful about foreign involvement in Afghanistan since the British invasion 170 years ago it would take more than one play and more than one evening.

After talking to a number of playwrights a plan evolved. The project became a day-long immersion, twelve half hour plays interspersed with some verbatim interviews from politicians, journalists and soldiers, taking the audience on a journey from the first Anglo-Afghan wars to Independence; from the Russian invasion to the CIA arming of the Mujahideen; from the coming of the Taliban to Operation Enduring Freedom, the reconstruction, aid-workers and the present situation in Helmand. Nine month’s later, the dozen writers had all delivered, I had spent a hectic week in Kabul, my co-director, Indhu Rubasingham, and I had cast the plays, Pamela Howard had designed the sets and the 115 costumes, and after six weeks rehearsals we had opened The Great Game at the Tricycle Theatre in London.

A year later we revived the production in London before taking it on a US national tour. In July before leaving for America Sir David Richards, then Head of the British Army, hosted a day-long performance for the British military, Whitehall policy-makers, and soldiers about to deploy to Afghanistan. (more…)

Great Game

The Last Leg…

Thursday, December 30th, 2010 by Great Game

We arrived in New York on the 29th November. The company reassembling from the Thanksgiving break – some had been back to England, but the majority had been traveling and holidaying in the U.S. I arrived in the afternoon from Washington. The crew were already half-way through the fit-up at the Skirball Theatre on Washington Square. The theatre doubles as a lecture hall for NYU and is somewhat antiseptic and incredibly wide – the width rather dwarfed our set. The very institutional foyer had been enlivened by a wonderful Afghan – Temur – who had followed us from Washington, and set up a stall of Afghan jewellery, carpets and crafts. He did a roaring trade, especially on the trilogy days.

The first week was spent hectically getting used to the space, and New York’s harsh biting cold wind – somewhat akin to what London was experiencing in the first week in December. The first performance on Wednesday took all of us by surprise – the audience, compared to those we had experienced elsewhere, was completely unresponsive; luckily however Oskar Eustis (the Artistic Director of the Public Theater) was immensely supportive – as were the Chair of our Board and Baz Bamigboye who had flown in especially for this opening performance. Somehow we all had not found the right energy for the space but over the next two days things radically improved, and by the weekend everyone had got into their stride. The two weekend press trilogy days were much much more accomplished – the audiences too were incredibly responsive, and we got standing ovations on both days. (more…)

Nicolas Kent

The latest news from the US tour…

Wednesday, December 1st, 2010 by Nicolas Kent

The last week in Berkeley was extraordinary – the company were in great spirits, the weather was glorious, and added to that we were playing to full houses. There were a number of talk-backs after the plays, and the audiences were extremely engaged and interesting. The spirit of the 60s certainly has not died in Berkeley, although the homelessness and poverty is alarming: it caused the British Council representative to remark to me that it reminded him very much of his last posting in India. Apparently the divide between rich and poor in America is the greatest of any developed country.

A group of Afghans came to see the plays on the final Saturday, and were enormously grateful that we were doing something about the history of their country, and I was asked to pose for photos with the family – their gratitude was extremely touching, and it was only a shame that somehow not more of the Afghan community seemed to know about our visit – the Bay area has the largest population of Afghans in America – most of whom arrived here during the Russian occupation.

Berkeley Rep have been extraordinarily welcoming throughout, and on the final night they threw a party after the plays, which was a wonderful end of the first long leg of this tour.


Nicolas Kent

Back to London

Monday, October 18th, 2010 by Nicolas Kent

I have just arrived back in London to catch up with what’s going on at the Tricycle. My last ten days in the States were action-packed – as most of this tour has been so far. On the middle Thursday of the run in Minneapolis, Lee Blessing arrived to see his play WOOD FOR THE FIRE for the first time. And he, the cast, and I met up on stage in an audience discussion before he had even had a chance to introduce himself to any of us. Fortunately he loved the way Rachel Grunwald had directed his play, and the work of all the actors, but rather nerve-wrackingly, we heard that, in front of a large audience who had stayed behind to take part in one of the audience discussions that had been going on all this week…

For all Nicolas Kent’s updates, click the ‘Nicolas Kent’s Diary of the Great Game Tour’ category.


Nicolas Kent

Worth a Billion

Wednesday, October 6th, 2010 by Nicolas Kent

We have just done our first week in Minneapolis, blessed by great weather and standing ovations again for the Saturday and Sunday trilogy days. The Guthrie is a huge Jean Nouvel building on the banks of the Mississippi. The theatre itself even boasts an endless bridge which cantilevers out from the foyer between its two large theatres towards the river (which is in full flood after the heavy September rains). The theatre has an annual budget of $25million and employs over 300 people; it seems rather larger than the National and certainly has more glass (so much so that I even managed to almost knock myself out by colliding with a window – it and I still bear the scars!). (more…)

Nicolas Kent

Five days of politics, plays and policy-makers

Thursday, September 30th, 2010 by Nicolas Kent

The five days in Washington were incredibly eventful and exciting. On Tuesday I found myself speaking in a forum hosted by the American Institute of Peace together with Air Vice Marshal Michael Harwood ( the British Military attache), and an Afghan woman who makes TV programmes for Kabul. It was a lively audience and the whole session was televised by the Urdu service of Voice of America. (more…)

Great Game

From the Sublime to the Ridiculous!

Tuesday, September 21st, 2010 by Great Game

Nicolas Kent on week two of the tour:

4.30am, and I’m unable to sleep for the first time on this tour. We had a wonderful reception at the Deputy Ambassador’s residence tonight – I had to make a speech which seemed to go down well, and did not sour UK/USA relations too much! Then after a fantastic dinner, with all the cast and stage management dressed to the nines and looking incredibly glamorous, we went off for drinks at Dupont Circle.

The team takes in the sites

On Tuesday morning we’re off to tour The White House, and on Thursday, it’s a cast Segway tour of Washington – from the sublime to the ridiculous!

It’s beautifully sunny here, the perfect Fall weather, and everyone we meet is incredibly enthusiastic about the project. Lots of policy-makers are coming and it’s great to be playing these plays where the decisions about Afghan policy are being made… again and again I am being asked if The Great Game is going to be televised…