15 November 2015

Cinema by Zendeh at the Northern Stage

I really respect theatre companies that bring to light (and life) important socio-political and  historical events which have almost been swept under the carpet. Zendeh is such a theatre company (the backdrop to 2014’s Heart was the 1953 Iranian Coup d’Etat). Their most recent production, Cinema, is a powerful one woman show; its Artistic Director Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh tells the tragic story of the arson attack on the Cinema Rex in Abadan, Iran in August 1978.

The story is told from the unique perspective of the cinema’s cat, Scheherazade who managed to escape. We find out about the lives of those that perished, stories enhanced by the clever score of composer Mariam Rezaei and powerful video projections by Matt Jamie. Hearing about the small, simple things in life cherished by victims was gut wrenching – 422 people died in an act which led to the Iranian Revolution. The power of the storytelling in the piece was summed up by the line – “stories can save a life or ease the pain of death”.
The staging – with cinema seats dotted around was a constant reminder of the enormity of the loss and the unfairness of it all, how the simple act of going to enjoy a film could be punished in such a way. The story stuck in my mind for days, the combined effect of the multi-disciplinary performance and the almost child-like, emotive central performance, which was a tender interpretation of the stuff of nightmares.

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