Friday, February 18, 2011

Jo'Meh (Friday)

 Sven Till and Wolfgang Hoffman take a bow after Pandora 88 from Germany

1) Today is the day of prayers in Islam, so the streets are remarkably traffic free, for the first part of the day. I have breakfast with zee Germans - Wolfgang Hoffman and Sven Till - whose show, Pandora 88, I will be seeing tonight. I know these guys from a while back. Wolfgang used to run Aurora Nova in Edinburgh, as well as the Dublin International Fringe (where Volcano, my company, took a show called The Four Horsemen Project). Sven is married to an old friend from Toronto, Heather MacCrimmon - they now live in Potsdam.

Gramophones for sale at the Jo'Meh Bazaar

2) I go to the Jo'Meh Bazaar, or flea market, with my fellow jurors, Andrea and Lampros, and Nassim. This is a vast flea market in a parking garage, within walking distance of the hotel (the weather continues to be like spring - with wind blowing the usual pollution away). It's a bit overwhelming - everything from carpets to gramophones to books to jewellery to kitchen ware to furniture - and thousands of people. I think I'm too shell-shocked to buy anything. Something i regret, now that i'm writing this.

3) I hear nothing of today's protest until I return to my computer. The internet is up, and my fabulous girlfriend, Neema, has emailed me the latest news from Radiozameneh - a website that is blocked in Iran (
). The pro-government demonstration apparently got violent, when it encountered a counter-demonstration that students at the Art University had set up. The classmates of the dead drama student, Saneh Jaleh, are upset that the regime has lied about his death - portraying him as a pro-government martyr. His brother, Ghaneh Jaleh, went on Voice of America to say as much. He was arrested shortly thereafter. 

4) I see two more shows. Pandora 88, from Germany, is sublime. The theatre is like a sardine tin, packed to overflowing, with about 5 added rows of people sitting on the floor, spilling onto the stage, in front of the first row of seating. It is a movement theatre piece: two men and a box, which we look into as into an open elevator. We follow them from childhood through to adolescence and beyond - the box being their room, their sanctuary, their place to dream, and their prison - as they age. It is an enormously physical and inventive show - every inch of the confined space is explored physically - and the actor/dancers are wonderful. The crowd is moved (as am I), and the applause goes on and on - the performers - Wolfgang and Sven - visibly shocked, and themselves moved by how many bows they have to take. The next play, an Iranian show about a hair/makeup salon, is a middling university-level piece. There are some nice performances, but clumsy direction and a banal script (or so say some Persians I speak with). A shame - since this is a show that tackles the place of women in Iranian society - an extremely constrained place.

Home to a dinner with three Persian theatre artists and Andrea, my Italian co-juror. We speak of training, and how a famous Persian actor who was a student of Stanislavski essentially created modern Iranian drama -- Iran's own version of Lee Strasbourg and Stella Adler. 

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