Edinburgh Fringe 2021
With nothing but the titular suitcase, a trench coat and a scarf, this true story centers on questions of identity, immigration, women’s rights and involuntary displacement in a humorous and heartfelt portrayal of 27 characters in four languages. A tour de force performed in English, Spanish, French and Persian with English supertitles, Mimi’s Suitcase is a universal coming-of-age story of resilience and hope at once relevant, vibrant and authentic.
Chaperones and revolutionary guards at a party for teenagers? Who are they and why are they there? asks Mimi, a fourteen your old teenager who has just moved back to Iran with her parents after living most of her young life in Spain.
Years earlier Mimi’s father moved the family from Iran to Spain because (or so he said) he likes Flamenco…It turns out that Mimi’s grandmother in Iran had been supporting the entire family, but she could not continue due to the recent revolution. The result is that a fourteen year old Mimi would have to leave the casual life in Spain for a completely different life in Iran.
Written and performed by Ana Bayat in several languages, English, Spanish, French and Persian, Bayat enacts all the afore mentioned moments in her own life in this solo show. Bayat has boundless energy as she plays herself as an energetic teen through the events of her life at that age to adulthood.
Bayat switches into conversations and enactments effortlessly playing a multitude of characters, speaking different languages or changing accents – for example, there is a woman in a scarf warning Mimi about being very careful about how she dressed and did her makeup, and a Spanish woman chatting about boyfriends.
There is a complicity with the audience when Mimi says goodbye to her friends in Spain, because we have an idea of what she is going to experience in the near future, and on the day of departure she is told to wear clothes that cover her hair and a large trench coat.
The show is also about memories, and she reminisces about dancing with her father and other memories with friends in her previous life in Spain. Mimi tries to rebel and return to Spain but at fifteen she had no choice but to follow the adults.
Bayat is an accomplished actor and writer and proves it as she becomes each character with their different physical and verbal traits, ranging from realistic to cliché and quirky! She plays the brief linked vignettes with gusto – and yet it is the quieter moments that are a highlight, such as when Bayat is confiding in the audience and breaking the fourth wall or when she shares a conversation with Mrs Molyneux with us.
We learn about some of the history of Iran and comparisons about the wide changes in cultural rules that go back and forth, depending on the decade. Needless to say, we have time to reflect on where and how we live and how much it affects our mood, ambitions and dreams. Mimi shows us through her provocative experiences as she, like Ana traveled far to discover who she is.