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Culture

Afghan theater troupe stages Shakespeare in Germany

After performing at an international Shakespeare festival in London, the actors from Roy-e Sabs are in Germany to perform their production of 'The Comedy of Errors.'

"Shall we go on rehearsing or take a break?" asks Roger Granville. The 23-year-old is smiling, staying calm and yet he has reason to panic. He is down two actors with one having to stay behind for personal reasons and another refused the visa for Germany.

The premiere of 'The Comedy of Errors' at the Shakespeare Festival in the Neuss Globe is the next day and he doesn't know who's going to play … Nor does he know if there's a press conference or a photo shooting …

Roger Granville has been working as a producer with the pioneering Afghan theater company Roy-e Sabs ('the path to hope') since August 2011. He says it's Corinne Jaber who roped him into the project but he has no regrets at all. The German-Syrian director and actress has been toying with the idea of Shakespeare and Afghanistan since 2005.

Corinne Jaber

Corinne Jaber thinks Afghanistan and Shakespeare go hand in hand

"Many people forget that most of Shakespeare's plays are not set in England. Some are set in Italy; the 'Comedy of Errors' is set in Greece," she points out, adding that the works are universal and timeless and relevant to all cultures.

Comedy rather than tragedy

The play's story about a father searching for his family is very pertinent in today's Afghanistan.

However, the Afghan actors in Neuss are not weighed down by the country's tragic everyday reality, preferring instead to make jokes and laugh and even to cross their fingers for the German football team playing in the European championship.

When the press photographers get their chance to take pictures at last, the shoot turns into an impromptu performance.

And yet the actors have a lot to not laugh about. It takes guts to perform Shakespeare in Afghanistan. Indeed, the space they used to rehearse in was bombed and the rehearsals were relocated to India.

Enemies of culture

Although most of the troupe lives in Kabul, Parwin Mushtahel lives in Canada. She fled Afghanistan after her husband was murdered and she received death threats. But this actress, who was once voted best actress of the year, has not lost her zest for life.

Shakespeare in Afghanistan

There is not only war in Afghanistan

"Acting is a passion. When I perform I feel invincible. I lost my husband because of this love. He was killed because I work in television, cinema and theater."

"Some people want to destroy everything. They are enemies of our culture. The Afghan population - especially children - loves theatre. We are on the way to victory. I am proud to be taking part in this play here."

Another side of Afghanistan

Abdulhaq Haqjoo, who plays the male lead, says it's important that people get to see another side of Afghanistan through the performance. "I work in Afghanistan, I have a family and I am happy," he says.

"We stage plays in Afghanistan, direct them and perform them ourselves. We travel to different cities of Afghanistan and put on plays for adults and children. But unfortunately people here think that there is nothing but war in Afghanistan."

At the premiere in Neuss, the actors perform a small miracle. The audience of 450 people is fascinated by Roy-e Sabs' production in Dari with English subtitles.

Shakespeare festival in Neuss

The Neuss audience was overwhelmed

"I am sure that the audience knows Shakespeare," says actor Mamnoon Maqsudi. "You could see on their faces that they know him. Our gestures, the play's comedy and of course the subtitles also helped. I am grateful to the people that they made an effort to watch a play in Dari."

For their efforts, the audience members get a picture of Afghanistan that contrasts with the ubiquitous images in the media. They know now that there is a Roy-e Sabs, a path to hope.

Author: Birgit Görtz / act
Editor: Sarah Berning

DW.DE