Friday, February 18, 2011

Panj Shambeh, Part Two

Ok. The internet has been down for about 12 hours, while the pro-government Hatred Demonstration went forward. It's back up now. I hear there are calls for another anti-government demonstration on Sunday - the final day of the festival. 

Here is the post I wrote last night, and was unable to get up until now:


Three plays tonight.

1) An Iranian puppet version of the House of Bernarda Alba. There is a strong puppet tradition in Persia, but this is an innovative production within that tradition. The puppeteers are dressed in the same costumes as the puppets, and at times become the characters, and the puppets become dolls. There are three pupeteers, identically dressed - as are most of the puppets - all with full face masks that are actually faceless, except for a painted black cross where the nose and eyes should be. The puppets have this same mask. Sometimes the a puppeteer wielding a puppet is herself puppeted by another puppeteer. It is an intricate shifting of characters from body to body, and it is quite wonderful. The downfall is that all the voices are sound cues, and the sound system is not good. Plus, the lack of live voices distances the play from us, instead of bringing it closer. Still - I have never seen anything like this.

2) Perhaps one of the worst, most painful-to-sit-through travesties I have ever seen. The less said, the better.

3) Antigone. This is in the main hall of the CIty Theatre, which seats about 800, i'd guess. And it's packed. The aisles are packed. Every free inch is packed (there seems to be no fire marshall in Iran). This is a free adaptation of Antigone - a clown version, using some very precise Estonian actors (obviously with some good Eastern European physical training). The director/adaptor is a young Iranian. It is slow going - the show takes its time - perhaps a little too much time. But I warm to it - and the obvious overtones between Creon's time, and the Ayatollah's time, really hit in this very absurd take. As the curtain song plays (I Will Survive!), the audience goes nuts. Cheering, clapping - I have not seen a response like this in Tehran yet. It is thrilling.

Then a milkshake (standing in for a beer) with the American/British friend I've made here, at a nearby cafe decorated with pictures of Samuel Beckett, and populated by young people. 

A long day, with a good finish. Tomorrow is the Day of Hate towards the opposition and all things foreign. I won't be near it, I don't think. Best to stay away from that one…

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