Great Game Afghanistan ©

Photo by John Haynes

In 2010, the British Council supported the US premiere of 'The Great Game: Afghanistan', a series of 12 half-hour plays dealing with 170 years of foreign intervention in Afghanistan. 

The content of these plays ranged from 1842 to 2010 - including the Anglo-Afghan wars, independence, the Russian invasion, the CIA arming of the mujahideen, the arrival of the Taliban, Operation Enduring Freedom, reconstruction, Western aid programs and the continuing insurgency.

Highlighting politics, social affairs and the history of a country that has long been a focus of British, European and American foreign policy, the production premiered in 2009 at the Tricycle Theatre in London, UK. It toured the US, which included several performances at the Pentagon, where it was seen as an educational tool for US soldiers and officials. This production showed U.S. troops, military planners and aid workers a new perspective on the country’s history and culture that many knew very little about before being deployed; it demonstrated the frustration and helplessness of successive outsiders trying to do good and creating an emotional connection. 'The Great Game' achieved what news articles, lectures and country reports were unable to do.

Reviews of 'The Great Game'

After the plays’ successful six-week run at the Tricycle Theatre, Sir David Richards, then Head of the British Army, arranged a day-long showing of 'The Great Game', for British military service members and policymakers. He remarked, “I can tell you that the Ministry of Defence as a whole, and certainly the armed forces desperately want to understand the country well, and this series of plays – if I had seen it before I had deployed [to Afghanistan] myself in 2005 for the first time – would have made me a much better Commander of the ISAF Forces.”

'The Great Game' received outstanding reviews in the UK and the US. In an interview for a British Council podcast, then-U.S. Afghanistan commander Gen. David Petraeus stated that the plays fit in perfectly with his vision of a successful army grounded not just in military and political studies, as he put it, but in the arts and humanities as well.

Learn more about our panel discussion on cultural relations and conflict transformation:

Rethinking 'The Great Game': Cultural Perspectives in Afghanistan Policymaking

This event examined the historical patterns of international engagement in Afghanistan through the lens of the new production, 'The Great Game: Afghanistan'. We partnered with the USIP to host an engaging discussion about the relationship between cultural relations and conflict transformation in Afghanistan.


Air Vice Marshal Michael Harwood, Defence Attache, British Embassy

Nicolas Kent, Artistic Director, Tricycle Theatre

Mariam Atash Nawabi, Anchor, America Abroad Media

Ambassador William Taylor, Opening Remarks and Moderator, Vice President, USIP Center for Post-Conflict Peace and Stability Operations


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