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A vision of Kabul comes to London

By Adam Corrigan Holowitz, March 7, 2018

If you are of my generation, 9/11 likely introduced some new words into your vocabulary. I remember on September 11th, 2001 my Mom picked me up from my grade two classroom just around 11:50 am. I was confused, and somewhat happy to be let off from a day at school. That was until I started to comprehend what was happening on that day.

It was in the coming hours that I encountered a word I had never heard before, terrorism. It was also that day that I encountered a name I had never known before, Afghanistan.

If you are a late millennial like myself, you would not have yet had world geography classes when 2001 rolled around. And so, unfortunately, Afghanistan and the Middle East was first introduced to us through CNN and the events of September 11th, 2001. I hesitate to even use this as my first paragraph because Afghanistan has such a deep culture and is so much more than a place where a terror cell developed over the last couple decades. But none the less for my generation this is where the words terrorism and Afghanistan first connected.

Afghan immigration to Canada

Over the past fifteen or so years there has been a deep growing interest in what Afghanistan really is. There has been an influx of Afghan immigration to Canada and those immigrants have become fellow Canadians. The Canadian Armed Forces has also had a prolonged military presence in Afghanistan. But the questions that I and many people have wanted to know over this past decade and a half are; what really is this country called Afghanistan, what are the stories of this place?

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As a result, there has been a huge amount of Afghan diasporic literature and arts created in this last decade. A leader in this movement is novelist Khaled Hosseini whose work has explored Afghanistan’s complicated and rich history and culture. Hosseini’s two novels “The Kite Runner” and “A Thousand Splendid Suns” have become cultural phenomenons.

“A Thousand Splendid Suns,” in its stage adaptation, runs at the Grand Theatre from March 13 to 31. This work is among a number of hugely popular contemporary novels that have been given stunning stage adaptions. This trend of adapting current novels for the stage, brings the cultural zeitgeist into the theatre. These novels that are adapted for the stage, often have a strong relevance to the times. They grapple with subjects, which society is dealing with. So it makes sense that these stories move into the forum of theatre.

We can see examples of this in the mid-nineteenth century with social justice novels like “Les Miserable” and “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” which were extensively performed on stage in many different adaptations. Modern examples of this trend are works like National Theatre’s “War Horse” and “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Nighttime.” “War Horse” contends with animal versus technology in war, and “Curious Incident” asks how to make society accessible to all people. With all these works, a certain level of emotional spectacle is used in the adapting and staging.

Carey Perloff champion of regional theatre

One of the key people who led “A Thousand Splendid Suns” to the stage, is the production’s original director Carey Perloff. Perloff’s work will be familiar to Londoners who have seen her productions of “John Gabriel Borkman” and “Phedre” at the Stratford Festival. Her directing style, is highly expressive with large swaths of movement which were memorable in both her Stratford productions.

Perloff, has been the long-time artistic director of San Francisco’s American Conservatory Theatre; many consider her to be one of the great artistic directors. I highly recommend her book “Beautiful Chaos” on the art of directing and the equally challenging art of being an artistic director. Perloff was cited by The Globe and Mail’s J. Kelly Nestruck as one of the few American artistic directors who has been programing Canadian work in the US. During her time at A.C.T Perloff has programed works by Morris Panych, George F. Walker and Michel Tremblay to name a few. She has also been a champion of the regional theatre movement. She has challenged the idea that the term regional, means second-rate or provincial, demonstrating instead that the regional theatre should speak directly to the immediate community through its work.

So it is fitting that a champion of Canadian plays, and the regional theatre movement, should bring one of her works up to Canada at the Grand, especially a work that speaks so importantly to our current world.

Details, Details:
A Thousand Splendid Suns
The Grand Theatre
March 13 – 31
Purchase tickets online
Box office: 519-672-8800

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A vision of Kabul comes to London

Keith Tomasek
7 March 2018
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