Gilded Balloon Teviot
Afghanistan Is Not Funny is an extraordinary tale about Henry Naylor’s 2002 trip to Afghanistan, alongside his friend and war photographer friend Sam Maynard. The trip was to see post war Kabul and research a satire he went on to perform at the Edinburgh Fringe at the time. This new show takes us further into the trip, consisting of Naylor, alone on stage for 60 minutes, with a backdrop of journalistic photography and a captivating tale.
Naylor’s humane approach to a gory topic is what makes this show so endearing. Bringing in gruesome details, such as coming across a hole where a Taliban landline was placed to blow up foreigners or finding some human scalp on the floor, At times he risks running too close to a dark, political tale. Yet suddenly, with sublime wit and comic relief, he brings us back to extremely high performative value. Hilarious impressions of the Taliban holding AK47’s and risky selfies next to missiles that could be active leave you at the edge of your seat. There’s even a moment when Naylor meets Mujahideen soldiers who act out the liberation of Kabul, posing on tanks whilst photos are taken. Sitting in a comfortable cosy fringe theatre, alongside smirks and giggles, we are reminded of a harsh ulterior reality.
Afghanistan Is Not Funny feels much more than a play; rather it is an honest political truth pill. It provides heavy reminders of the lies of the entertainment business; with plenty of photographic evidence depicting the Russian and Taliban part in proceedings whilst there is worrying little input from the west. This is just some of the meaty documentation of the facts that Naylor expresses.
Naylor’s trip ultimately did become a hit show with Finding Bin Laden. However, Naylor has now turned this to a plea of apology, reminding us again that the situation in Afghanistan is not funny. He leaves us with thoughts about the entertainment industry and how they are only really interested in telling their version of the story. So who is left telling Afghanistan and it’s people’s real story?
We’re left at the end with a heart wrenching image in our head. With many interesting themes this play awakens the audience. It reminded us of what is important and left me with an urgency of respect and empathy. It would be a shame not to see it.
Written by: Henry Naylor
Produced by: Gilded Balloon in association with RedBeard Theatre
Afghanistan Is Not Funny plays at Gilded Balloon Teviot untli 29 August, 4pm. Further information and bookings here.