JOYCE MCMILLAN on ONE NIGHT IN IRAN at Oran Mor, Glasgow, for The Scotsman 23.3.11
4 stars ****
WITH REVOLUTION SWEEPING through parts of the Muslim world, Oliver Emanuel’s brief 35-minute two-hander – the latest show in the current Play, Pie and Pint lunchtime season – could hardly be more timely. Set in a luxury hotel room in Tehran, the play explores the gap between the official culture of country where adultery remains a crime and marriage a practical family arrangement, and the inner lives and longings of a younger generation whose ideas are shaped as much by global culture as by Iranian tradition. The man and the woman in this play are not married, although they are young and in love; in fact, he is married to one of her cousins, and their relationship consists mainly of erotic texts and phone calls, exchanged when no-one in the family is looking.
The state, though, also has its views about public employees who conduct such relationships on their work-related mobile phones; so when they meet for a rare, secret night together, it’s not only long shadows of personal guilt that hang over their king-sized bed, but also a real terror of arrest and imprisonment, and of the public shaming and ostracism of their whole family.
In a single, brief conversation, the play explores how they navigate through these horrors to find at least a few hours of peace and joy together; sometimes, there’s an audible awkwardness in the dialogue, as a young British writer struggles to imagine his way into a situation so far beyond everyday experience in this country. The performances, though – from young Glasgow actors Nabil Stuart and Amiera Darwish – are stunningly intense, and very moving; not least in their acknowledgment that running away – the default solution of outlawed lovers through the ages – is not a real option for them, if they want to keep their lives whole, and meaningful.