The Prisoner’s Dilemma

Sep 11 – Sep 28, 2008

Written by David Edgar

Directed by Jerome Davis

Originally presented by the Royal Shakespeare Company, The Prisoner’s Dilemma deals with a group of idealistic, politically savvy young people who gather for a seminar in California in early 1989 to discuss global conflict resolution.  By the end of that year, Lech Walesa and Solidarity! had forced free elections in Poland, a playwright (!), Vaclav Havel, had been elected president of Czechoslovakia and, on November 9, 1989, the Berlin Wall came crashing down.  The play then leaps forward eight years to a time when “ethnic cleansing” was rampant in Eastern Europe.  David Edgar’s play imagines a small, ex-Soviet block country, Kavkhazia, torn asunder by the desire of a Muslim ethnic minority for independence.  It follows several of the young idealists we met in the first scene as they attempt to reconcile their principles with the practicalities of ethnic cleansing and “the New World Order”.


The play was originally presented in 2001 at the Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford.  It opened in London in 2003, in a Royal Shakespeare Company production directed by Michael Attenborough.  Burning Coal’s production represents the American professional premiere of The Prisoner’s Dilemma.