Kabul Goes Pop
Brixton House, London, until May 29
In the House of Commons, Rupa Huq, the Labour MP, recently asked Liz Truss a question. Was it true the government had redeployed what few staff they had assisting Afghan refugees into dealing with the humanitarian crisis in Ukraine? The foreign secretary blustered.
Only later did it become clear that our national reserves of compassion really are finite. Either that, or this administration can only be bothered to offer life-saving assistance to foreign nationals caught up in a tragedy that happens to be making the front pages at the time.
The media circus has moved on from Afghanistan, but its people, especially its young women, are now paying a terrible price for Biden’s chaotic capitulation to the Taliban. Arguably the Ukrainians are, too, because Putin could only have seen Afghanistan as an invitation to exploit the failure of western resolve.
Too seldom does theatre dare to address issues that we should have on our consciences, but Waleed Akhtar goes for it in Kabul Goes Pop. It begins in the mid-noughties when Farook – superbly played by Arian Nik – and Samia – Shala Nyx – begin work as presenters of Afghanistan’s first youth music TV show.
Inspired by a true story, Anna Himali Howard’s production shows the pair metamorphosing from teen idols to public enemies as the fundamentalists – who from the start despise everything they represent – gain the whip hand. Nyx is especially moving: she shows the courage it took as a woman in her culture to do what she did, and, inevitably, she ends up paying a terrible price for it.
This is a brave piece about the betrayal of a generation that shows the new Brixton House means business under its artistic director Gbolahan Obisesan. I do not, incidentally, use the word ‘brave’ lightly. The plague of false equivalence has spread from television news to drama.
On television and on the stage, I have seen too many works in recent years that have been absurdly eager to put everyone on the same level, even when
the subject matter is the Brexit campaign or Rupert Murdoch.
Akhtar has produced an elegantly written, often very funny, piece that works precisely because it takes a moral position on Afghanistan, and, underlying every word, there is a raw and admirable fury.
Kabul Goes Pop transfers to Harlow Playhouse on June 8, the Mercury Theatre, Colchester, from June 15-18 and the New Wolsey Theatre, Ipswich on June 20