Sometimes a banana is just a banana … and sometimes it’s more! For the young men’s theater group, a banana represents the multiple problems in Afghan society. Dealing with the seemingly insignificant task of where to throw the peel leads the main character on a journey through the maze of maze of problems on all levels of Afghan society.
Ahmed leaves school where he got a lesson on the role each person can play to change society – responsibility for your actions! On his way home, he eats a banana and tosses the peel in the air. It lands on the doorstep of a shopkeeper who is trying to balance his books. Inflation is rising and so are his expenses.
Ahmed gets an earful from this shopkeeper but when he asks what to do about the peel he is dismissed and told to throw the peel in the street – just not in front of this shop.
Eager to do the right thing … Ahmed tosses the peel and waits for the bus. An office worker rushing to work slips and falls on the peel. Ahmed admits the peel was his and gets an earful about his lack of responsibility
but when the office worker is asked where the peel should go, he rants about his job, his responsibilities, and how he has no time for such trivial things.
He doesn’t work on the street, he works in an office. Ahmed should ask the person whose job it is to care for the streets – the traffic cop.
And off Ahmed goes, peel in hand, peppy in step. Barely dodging the notoriously chaotic Kabul traffic Ahmed stops to talk to the traffic cop (or uncle traffic). Does he have any advice?
“Do you know what I am paid?” says the cop. “I have so many responsibilities. Besides, look at these drivers. Do you think they take responsibility for each other? I don’t have time for this. If you want to know who is responsible for the streets, go to the Mayor’s office.”
And off our dear Ahmed goes, peel in hand onto the overcrowded bus that drops him at the Mayor’s office. At the Mayor’s office he stands in line behind two men vyying for a job. The first, a very qualified candidate, is beaten out by the candidate with family connections. (When we performed this for the National Police they started clapping at this scene. I found out later that it is common to applaud when issues are well reflected. It doesn’t mean they like nepotism!)
Well, the Mayor’s office can’t help Ahmed either. They are too busy. If Ahmed wants to know what the law about littering is, he has to go to the courts. So Ahmed goes to court, seeking banana justice!
In the court he witnesses a case between a woman and a man, and the legal privilege of being a man. But, the character who got a job due to nepotism is now working in the court and can’t find the right legal book for the judge – so the verdict is postponed. “Come tomorrow” says the judge to the plaintiffs’ dismay.
Ahmed gets no help from the judge here, who doesn’t have time for a banana peel.
Go see the mullah if you want to know the right thing to do. So …
Ahmed sees the Mullah. This is the first person who talks to Ahmed about his problem. But the Mullah doesn’t have any answers. He tells Ahmed that there won’t be anyone coming to solve our problems, and we have to solve them today by taking small steps. We don’t know the road to the future, but we can make it by walking. (Yes, that last part was a little addition from me! Thank you Machado and Freire and Boal!)
The banana peel gets eaten by some local sheep in the courtyard of the mosque, but the audience is left with a question about Afghanistan’s other problems. What can we do?
The National Police were quite vocal, though none wanted to come on stage to try an intervention. It seemed like the scene that most moved them was the one about nepotism. So we had them stand up and talk to the Mayor’s office official from their seat.
They had a good deal to say and at the end of it, the assistant general addressed the group and hailed the show. It turns out, they want a police theater company to create plays about issues that the police face. Let’s see what happens.
The men and women have back to back shows from Sat – Wed. and I can’t wait to see how other audiences respond. We will perform at a center for widows and orphans, in the women’s prison, in the Mayor’s office, and at other small NGOs and schools around town. This play is much more upbeat than the women’s but serious nonetheless. We had lots of fun putting it together, and as it turns out, Afghans have lots of double entendres and banana jokes too!
More soon! Love K.