Our actors and backstage crews pulled off quite a feat this weekend: nine shows in three days! On Friday, we opened our epic production of The Great Game: Afghanistan, presenting the entire trilogy in one impressive marathon that started at 11:30 AM and ended at 10:30 PM. And then we did it again on Saturday and Sunday! (And meanwhile, next door on our Thrust Stage, the hardworking folks from Compulsion "only" gave us the usual five-show weekend.)
Was it worth it? Well, the local critics have added their voices to the international praise for this ambitious production:
"There's no doubt that the Tricycle Theatre's The Great Game: Afghanistan is one of the theatrical events of the season... This is no polemic. It's a timely history lesson, an animated primer to add context to one of the era's most pressing issues. It's also strikingly staged." - San Francisco Chronicle
“This production pulls off an amazing feat. It entertains and informs. It’s a double whammy that should not be missed by fans of theater nor fans of politics.” – Stark Insider
“Berkeley Rep’s Great Game is powerful… Going to see all three plays will definitely provide theatergoers with a deeper understanding of a 170-year swath of Afghanistan’s history. They will see some fine acting as well. Many members of the Tricycle’s London company are simply outstanding, including Jemma Redgrave (of the famous acting family).” – Berkeleyside
“This really is a staggering event… the plays as a whole create a fascinating portrait of Afghanistan – not unlike like the giant mural at the back of Pamela Howard’s simple set that undergoes several important evolutions.” – Theater Dogs
We're still waiting to see the review from the Bay Area News Group, which should appear this Thursday in the San Jose Mercury News, Oakland Tribune, and Contra Costa Times. But you may not want to wait that long to order tickets. The Chronicle urges you to "Go for the marathon," and tickets to see the entire series are going fast!
Photo of Jemma Redgrave and Daniel Rabin in The Great Game: Afghanistan by John Haynes
The Mercury/BANG review is now out too. You can read it at http://www.mercurynews.com/entertainment-headlines/ci_16437948 . Here's what I like:
"A masterwork... 'Great Game' a stunning, epic look at Afghanistan's turbulent history... When it's over, you are numb, frustrated, energized, drained, entertained, more empathetic than sympathetic and more convinced than ever in the belief that those who ignore history are bound to repeat it... If nothing else, this complex and engaging play, directed by Nicholas Kent and Indhu Rubasingham, will give you a better understanding of the situation in Afghanistan and how we got there. But not to be overlooked is the wonderful theatrical ride that is provided by just 13 actors performing a multitude of characters in the plays and scenes that make up the work. Watching these actors (many of whom you might recognize from British TV shows on American television) work is quite amazing."
I just saw Part I and have to confess that I found it a little boring. The set was very well done and the acting quite good so I think it had more to do with the pace and composition.
Act 2 was hard to focus on since the first 10-15 minutes comprised of a series of monologues with the house lights on. It got a little better with the interaction between the British government and the professor, but the car scene seemed to be lacking enough physical movement to really keep me involved.
Act 1 was more engaging, and the story of the general's wife was particularly compelling. I enjoyed the passages from her diary which communicated her experience in Afghanistan as a Victorian woman and thought these were well written and delivered. Her prejudice and superiority over people of another culture is something we still struggle with today.
Overall, I think what was disappointing is that we didn't get more scenes of what life was like in Afghanistan in 1880-1929. This would would have helped put the military strategy in context and give us intimacy with a different Afghanistan--a time when the orient was still mysterious and western civilization covered furniture legs to prevent male distraction.
I'm looking forward to Act 2 and hope the pace picks up.
Hope others find this review helpful.
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