Adelaide Fringe 2015
The setting: 1800s Persia. A woman educated with her brothers—against common practice—excels. She starts thinking outside the box, is revered by some, shunned by others. Over time she becomes too big for her proverbial boots, not only speaking her mind, but calling for reformation and liberation; equality, even – for all…then they come for her.
Tahríríh is the first woman to take off her veil. A 19th Century Persian poetess whose expression was her beauty, and her downfall. In this one-woman show the reactions of four participants to her last days are played out in a monologue cycle, interspersed with Tahríríh’s own and delivered as musical interludes.
The BAHA’I Centre of Learning is an impressive venue. The foyer is organised into an inviting pre-theatre space. The production began in a somewhat irregular fashion and did not settle into a consistent rhythm owing to multifarious factors. The script is good—nuanced and structurally sound. Some edits should be made here and there – particularly for brevity’s sake. The Executioner used Australian dialect when other characters did not, which was anomalous; however, the code switching was most entertaining and could be exploited further.
Onstage, co-writer/director/actor, Delia Olam is a gem, a raw talent waiting to be discovered for a bright and sparkling future. Her portrayal of the male characters was good, additional masculine mannerisms were needed for clarity – the boy was more evolved than others. Olam’s female character portrayals were better; Tahríríh was outstanding. Those scenes and the retelling of the execution scene are where the production came into its own. Scarves were a strong visual delineation of character change.
The set was a little fussy and the floorboards creaked, which detracted from the performance slightly. The silhouettes and scarves that hung on set caused some disruption to scene changes, and the text projection was not always visible to the whole audience. The lighting design was impressive and the silhouettes could have been incorporated into lighting more discreetly. The sound design was also high quality and well executed. Costuming was another positive – its simplicity was its strength, but the screen was under-utilised – it could have been used enable seamless scene, character and dress changes in a one-woman show.
Despite these little inconsistencies audience members commented that they found the performance “captivating”, “fantastic”, “eye-opening”, and “informative”. Real interest was sparked in Tahríríh, but they also flagged some production concerns. This script and performance have ingredients for greatness. The direction of the whole production could be improved and help the show evolve into a masterpiece because—in parts—it’s already there.