Live Table Read: Lies and Deceit by Lawrence Gray
Lies and Deceit by Lawrence Gray
In 1838 the British invaded Afghanistan and then went onto suffering their greatest military defeat. This ill-advised venture left a huge number of British agents in Central Asia out in the cold. Many of whom were killed by local sultans. Two of them, Captain Connolly and Colonel Stoddard, fell into the hands of the Emir of Bukhara, and their fate was followed by the news media of the day with salacious zeal, questioning whether the Government cared one way or the other about the honour of the nation, or whether the terrible rumours of their fate were all fake news.
One man decided to go and find out whether they were alive or dead and if possible bring them home. This man was Dr Joseph Wolff, eminent missionary, married to Lady Georgina Walpole, a friend of the British foreign secretary, and a man who saw his life's mission as to convert the Lost Tribes of Israel, i.e. central Asian Jews, to Christianity. His previous ventures in Central Asia had found him captured and enslaved, only to escape and walk six hundred miles across a rugged and hostile land, entering Kabul literally stripped naked without even shoes. Whereupon he wrote a rambling account of his adventures and thus became the go-to man for quotes about Central Asian barbarity and the civilising mission of good Christians.
This mission to Bokhara, much opposed by his rather fearsome wife, was to be his last mission. And that is where this story starts. The play follows him to his confrontation with the Emir, his acquisition of a temporary wife, his attempts at forgiving the man who enslaved him, and the torments inflicted upon him by Abdul Samut Khan, the man he considers to have been the reason for Stoddard and Connolly’s beheading.
Dr Wolff believed the end of the world was coming in 1847 and his job was to prepare all for Jesus' return to Jerusalem. He entered Bokhara proclaiming this and instead of an immediate execution as everyone warned awaited him, the Emir was intrigued and commissioned a Life of Mohammed from him and left him in the hands of Abdul Samut Khan while he wrote it. Dr Wolff's investigations into Connolly and Stoddard’s death find him in a world of lies and deceit.
Whereas Connolly had once been a student of Dr Wolff, his Christian virtues had perhaps not made him immune to the financial opportunities of operating in Central Asia. And Colonel Stoddard appears to have been the least diplomatic diplomat one could ever send into a land full of rather touchy Muslims, and also far from immune to dodgy land and slave trading opportunities in the region.
At the heart of a web of intrigue was Abdul Samut Khan, a man of mixed heritage, and allegiances. A one-time member of her Majesty's forces in India, then a leader of a mercenary army of deserters offering services to anyone who cared to pay, and currently robbing the Emir blind and using his brother in Tehran and his relationship with the British consul there to launder his loot from various engagements on behalf of the Emir.
Dr Wolff fears that his discoveries and the many threats and warning of Abdul Samut Khan would eventually end with his own execution. He plots his escape but all around him are people willing to betray him. He is saved by the Emir's delight at reading his account of Muhammad's Life, which the Emir immediately declares should be made available in all the mosques of the region. A fact that both protect Dr Wolff, but also puts him at risk from the many Imams who now take delight in finding blasphemies in his work.
What perhaps really saves his life is that Abdul Samut Khan wanted to know what truly motivated Dr Wolff's dangerous and near-insane desire to enter Bukhara when it was obvious by then that Connolly and Stoddard were dead and anyone coming to inform the Emir of his mistake in doing this would meet the same fate. His conclusion is that Dr Wolff was not there to save souls, or raise the dead, as many thought, but was really driven by something he could relate to, a desire for revenge on the man who enslaved him. He decides that by enabling Dr Wolff in this, Dr Wolff might enable Abdul to move his money into a British bank. This would prepare for his end game, which was either usurping the Emir, or at least a comfortable retirement without fear of the British hunting him down when they hear how he championed Connolly and Stoddard’s execution.
If you want to know how Dr Wolff extricated himself from this web of intrigue and kept his sanity, if indeed he did, you have to read the script. Like all great stories that sound completely improbable, this one is based upon a true story, or at least as true as Dr Wolff's account of his adventures in his book Mission to Bokhara.
Lies and Deceit is a very extensive script that may take a few hours to read.
Dr Wolf : Steven Michael Broad
Amina : Megan Trotman
Dil Assa Khan : Nick Barclay
Haje Ibrahim / Abdul Samut Khan : Tris Baffour Awuah
Captain John Grover / Rabbi Sefee / Russian Ambassador : Cameron Cave
Khaleefa of Khiva / Mullah Kasem : Seth Kruger
Asaff Ood Dowla / The Emir of Bukhara : Andy Hudeková
Scruffy Solider / Woman in Market / Abool Kasem : Amy English
Sheil / Muhammad Bakher Nakash / Saadat : Petri Stefanescu
The Afghan / Behadur Hussein Ali : Lio Lylark
Ali Serraf / Nasir / Abbas Kouli Khan / Servant : Amy Leis
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