Afghan people love poetry; it’s part of their soul. Afghanistan is a nation which has the profoundest respect for storytellers. Stephen Landrigan has just spoken at The Shakespeare Centre about a production of Love’s Labour’s Lost he worked on in Kabul in 2005. And I’ve just quoted the first sentence of his new book (co-authored with Qais Akbar Omar) all about it.
People thought it heralded a new beginning for the Afghanistan. Love’s Labour’s Lost was chosen in part because of its strong female roles. It was the first time anyone had known women to perform in Afghanistan, a compelling, rich, and dangerous cultural moment.
The production was directed by Corinne Jaber whose Afghan production of The Comedy of Errors forms part of the World Shakespeare Festival’s Globe to Globe programme at Shakespeare’s Globe.
On Shakespeare’s Birthday Haus Publishing brought out Shakespeare in Kabul, by Stephen Landrigan and Qais Akbar Omar. Qais is still waiting for his visa in Pakistan and is missing out on all the special events happening around his moving and beautiful account of an extraordinary moment in the international history of Shakespeare on stage.
Why Shakespeare? Why Love’s Labour’s Lost? Which language could it be translated into and acted in? How do you tell a story about romantic love in a culture which only arranges marriages? These are the sorts of discussions that occur throughout Shakespeare in Kabul.
Stephen intends to give a copy of the script and other materials relating to the production to The Shakespeare Centre Library and Archive in the not too distant future, hopefully accompanied by his co-author. Now that will be a moment worth celebrating.
I wish this book especially well because hearing Stephen talk about it reminded me of the freedoms that Shakespeare and poetry and drama make possible.
You can find out more about the project here. And you can listen to Stephen Landrigan talking to me about the project on this audioboo.