IT IS MODERN-DAY KABUL—on stage, that is—and three men, two of them in Western attire, huddle over a pot of tea. The third man, a chaiwala in traditional Afghan garb, confronts the pair with a question. “Do you speak Dari?” he asks. One of the foreigners responds indignantly: “I’m Afghan, but I’m from Samarkand.” The local is alarmed at this disclosure, and promptly gives the foreigners Afghan clothes. Samarkandis aren’t welcome in Kabul, he explains.
In advance of their appearance at the Globe Theatre in London in May, the Afghan theatre group Rah-e-Sabz performed in Delhi their Persian adaptation of Shakespeare’s amoral and raucous Comedy of Errors, Komedy-e-Eshtebahat: a feisty but serious farce, set not in far-off Greece, but in their own troubled country.
In The Comedy of Errors, a pair of identical twin brothers and their twin servants are separated at birth. Years later, as one pair of twins search for the other pair in the city of Ephesus, the families and servants of the two brothers confuse the two. In Komedy-e-Eshtebahat the modern cities of Samarkand and Kabul are depicted as sharing a hostile relationship similar to the trade cities of Syracuse and Ephesus in the late 16th-century Elizabethan comedy. Basir Haider, who plays the role of Bostan, one of the twin servants, finds the modern comparison amusing because Afghanistan and Uzbekistan are involved in trade, and the relationship between the two countries’ governments is friendly. In fact, the two countries are connected by the Afghanistan-Uzbekistan Friendship Bridge.