JOYCE MCMILLAN on HEART at the Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh, for The Scotsman 2.6.14.
3 stars ***
IF TAMASHA THEATRE’s My Name Is.. explores the mounting pressures on a “mixed” marriage in Britain between the 1980’s and 2006, then Zendeh’s Heart – seen at theTron last week, and in Edinburgh over the weekend – takes the same theme, and sets it against the dramatic backdrop of the global politics of the early 1950’s.
This was the era when postwar Britain was nationalising essential industries at home, while plotting abroad to prevent the Mossadeq government in Iran from nationalising the oil industry British companies felt belonged to them. So when young Iranian student Leili falls in love with a radical Syrian poet living in Tehran, is sent abroad by her disapproving parents, and finds herself at university in chilly Durham, she simply has no idea of the real motives of the charming middle-aged English academic who woos her, marries her, and returns with her to Iran, only to prove both sexually cold, and preoccupied by ever more sinister work commitments that finally explode into violence on the streets.
Created jointly by director Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, writer Steven Gaythorpe, and the three-strong acting company, Heart sometimes slides towards a slighlty sentimental romantic tone, as Leili clings to the heart-shaped box that symbolises her drive to survive. If the play’s language and imagery is sometimes unequal to the scale of its themes, though, it’s still an immensely rich and thoughtful show about imperialism and its strange sexual undercurrents; and about the importance of the creative inpulse in defying the arrogance of power, as the poet is crushed and destroyed, but his words live on.