A Reason To Talk
4 stars ****
Summerhall (Venue 26)
WITH RELATIONS between Iran and the west undergoing a gradual thaw, there’s never been a more vital moment to try to learn and understand more about this beautiful, troubled and hugely creative powerhouse nation at the centre of most of the great conflicts that divide the world today. And if the revolution of 1979 forms the starting-point for many stories of modern Iran, It also marked a crisis in the life of Sachli Ghjolamalizad, a Belgian theatre-maker whose Iranian parents were forced to flee the country with their two young children, and to begin a new life in Belgium.
Ghjolamalizad’s approach to this story is a harsh, almost barbed one, as she sits at her laptop with her back to the audience, offering us only some live projected typescript, the image of her beautiful, rebellious face as picked up by her laptop’s internal camera, and a showing of a long, relentless and frequently hostile filmed interview she conducted with her own mother, followed by a short coda with her grandmother.
Ghjolamalizad herself raises the question of whether her show is really about the strain of being brought up across cultures, or simply represents the story of all mothers and daughters. But the filmed face and presence of her mother, which in a sense dominates the show, clearly carries within it all the scars of a shocking transition from rootedness to life as a stranger in a strange land, from wealth to poverty, from happy marriage to a prolonged initial period as a single parent. Her strategy for survival is to suppress the grief, to insist on being happy, to get on with things; her daughter interprets this as a life of lies, coldness, and a complete failure of emotional openness.
A Reason To Talk is a painful and searching show, in other words, as courageous as it is austerely inventive. And in the end, it forces us to begin to understand that even when refugees find a place to settle, their story of suffering is not over; and that the dislocation and damage often roll on down the generations, breaking hearts and twisting lives as they go.