Stars Over Kabul
Playwright Rebecca Lenkiewicz has collaborated with the National Youth Theatre on her exciting new play Stars Over Kabul, which is all about young people in Afghanistan and the reality TV show Afghan Star...
I was commissioned to write Stars Over Kabul by National Youth Theatre’s artistic director Paul Roseby as we'd previously worked together on Blue Moon Over Poplar at Soho Theatre in 2006.
I never consciously write an "issue" play – I just write the idea in my head. If it turns out to be issue-led, so be it. If it's not, I'll take my chances that someone will want to produce it anyway – people don’t just want to hear social analysis, they want to hear stories.
My inspiration for the piece came from Paul Roseby. He had seen an article about a woman called Razia, who was the first female crane driver in Afghanistan. She loved her job under the Soviets but when the Taliban came in they took her position away and she was forced to become a cleaner. The story then became about the daughter of Razia and how it feels to grow up in modern day Afghanistan. The Taliban have technically lost power but the war has left much emotional and physical debris behind. Fused with this is the fever that the show Afghan Star became. This is an ongoing talent show – its genesis a few years ago united the country with Afghanistani passion for it. A third of the population watched it on TV.
The research I did was very much focused on books and the internet. I watched a couple of documentaries that became very much a part of the piece – Afghan Star and The Dancing Boys of Afghanistan which told the story of boys who are trained to dance for men as though they were female dancers. I read a lot of [13th-century mystic poet] Rumi's poetry, as I wanted to use his words for songs within the piece.
I don't know that I consciously decided to meld the use of young people with the concept of a reality TV show. You're just always looking for ways in, and the TV show interested me because of the public and private face it has. In writing it's often not about decisions, just the various stories you want to tell. The world of the TV show and the world of the teenagers living in the village seemed vivid to me.
The young NYT actors have been fantastic and I think they have been very touched by the action within the piece. They have been hugely imaginative and open to everything. And along with director Juliet Knight and assistant director Rich Weiman, they have made the script very rich and detailed both physically and in its emotion. It's different to working with older actors because the younger crowd has more energy, but besides that it's a pretty similar process. Actors in my experience never truly grow old.
I'm looking forward to seeing the premiere of Stars Over Kabul. I always hope that something I've written will be moving and interesting for an audience. Beyond that, I hope that the performers get a great deal out of sharing it with an audience.
Stars Over Kabul premieres at the Tramway in Glasgow from Thursday 23rd September. Buy tickets here or call 0845 330 3501 for more information.
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