Afghanistan is Not Funny

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Paradoxically, while the message from Afghanistan is not Funny is that war is a destructive human tragedy, the show is very funny. Henry, a wannabe world famous comedian-satirist has a career high playing a fish in costume for a Cod commercial – a non-speaking part. His decision to write a play about Afghanistan finds him, very much against his better judgement, in Afghanistan, with his trusted photographer friend Sam, being guided by a young Afghani man who, although a surgeon, must earn extra money being a guide. 

Sam’s photos, shown on the back screen, do highlight  the devastation and misery along with blatant opportunism then apparent in Kabul. Henry, as he recounts their meetings with people in the street markets and American generals in pink t-shirts, keeps the humour alive. So brilliantly does he create each new character that one feels, at the end of the show, that they were all there on stage, present and correct. In a sense they were, as they were when Henry Naylor and Sam Maynard did travel to Kabul at the time of the American occupation.

The result of this visit and subsequent contact with Afghanistan is a play which was an instant success and has gone on to be performed in many countries, winning numerous awards and rave revues. There has been some modification since the play was first performed in Adelaide in 2002, making it tighter and funnier. Henry Naylor is an extraordinarily effective story teller, connecting instantly with the audience, holding them tightly in his hand until the end. He portrays a man who, distressed by the Birmingham accent of his therapist and his disappointments in his career, comes to terms with the reality of war – destruction of  homes and families, grief and poverty. The fact that he can convey all that in a show which is hilarious without diminishing the main message is a triumph.

The Studio – Holden Street Theatres

 5 March -17 March

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