David Edgar’s The Prisoner’s Dilemma is a play about political negotiation and the difficulty of reconciling opposing nationalist forces. It is the third play in Edgar's post-Cold War trilogy, which also includes The Shape of the Table (1990) and Pentecost (1994). It was first performed by the Royal Shakespeare Company at The Other Place, Stratford-upon-Avon, on 11 July 2001.
Beginning in early 1989 and spanning some twelve years, the play follows a team of peace negotiators attempting to resolve an ethnic conflict occurring within a fictional former Soviet republic. Inside Kavkhazia lies a largely Muslim province, Drozhdevnya, that wants independence. Following the collapse of the Soviet Union the two ethnic groups have fought bitterly for control over the country. As the two sides fight on the ground, attempts are made by a Finnish peace-broker to hammer out an accord that will guarantee a democratic, multi-ethnic state. Just when it looks as if a deal has been reached, however, one side swerves and the whole cyclical process starts all over again.
The Royal Shakespeare Company premiere was directed by Michael Attenborough and designed by Es Devlin. The cast was Douglas Rao, Diana Kent, David Wilmot, Joseph Mydell, Penny Downie, Larry Lamb, Trevor Cooper, Alex Zorbas, Zoe Waites, George Clarke, Joshua Dale, Alan David, Robert Bowman, Robert Jezek and Hattie Morahan.
The production transferred to the Pit Theatre, Barbican, London, with performances from 24 January 2002.