Edinburgh Fringe 2009
A one woman show from Glasgow based theatre group, A Moment’s Peace, Chronicles of Irania is a fictionalised version of Iran. Maryam Hamidi sparkles as Khadijeh who shares her stories and sheds light on women in Iran throughout history and today. A brave and thought-provoking show.
A woman clad in a black burka is lying on the stage as we enter the room. The lights dim and still lying shroud-like on the floor, she begins a devastating account of having acid thrown in her face by her husband. Then suddenly she leaps up and pulls off the burka to reveal a colourful traditional costume with bells and braids. Now Khadijeh, our hostess is all smiles and greetings, eager to ensure that we, her favoured guests, are made comfortable. Long glasses of steaming cardomam tea and Iranian sweets are dispensed to her audience.
This is an audience with Khadijeh who is taking us through the Chronicles of Irania, a lightly veiled version of Iran. Her Irania is well served by a colourful set with carpets and washing lines that are pegged with an array of colourful and evocative items. Her aim is to challenge the preconceptions and general lack of knowledge that we in the West have about Iran and the position of women there.
Like a latter day Scheherazade, Khadijeh begins to tell us beautiful Persian myths which as they unfold contain increasingly absurd messages about why the subjugation of women is both necessary and right. There is a tale well told with knitted finger puppets about a courtier’s wife who attempts a rebellion. And all the while these ancient stories are shot through with shocking stories of contemporary oppression – a mother watching her gay son put to death, women subjected to appalling cruelty. And through all this, Maryam’s concern is for her audience, for us: “Now are you all right?"
It’s a fragmented narrative that feels as though it has been smashed apart and put back together, a well written script, that serves its purpose well of not allowing us to sink back into our lazy assumptions about Iran. The play continually probes and challenges. Iran has a rich and colourful cultural history which nevertheless has been deeply oppressive to women. Now as it modernises itself to face the 21st century, the Chronicles of Irania shows us how Iran’s attitudes to women are still shaped by and mixed up in its past.
Maryam Hamidi plays Khadijeh with a warmth and passion that serves the play well. Her hospitality is legend but her stories are shattering.