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Just Let The Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair, or Who Is Tahirih? review, Assembly, Edinburgh – ‘story of a forgotten feminist’

Just Let The Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair, or Who Is Tahirih? A scene from Just Let The Wind Untie My Perfumed Hair, or Who Is Tahirih?

The early 19th-century Iranian poet, preacher and radical known as Tahirih is yet another lost heroine of history who modern scholars are belatedly acknowledging. This solo piece tells her story through the testimony of real and imagined witnesses, the poet herself remaining literally behind a curtain. 

Her progressive father encouraged her education but is shocked when she begins to display it in public. A loyal servant observes with wonder her effect on others, an ardent disciple comes under her spell, and her executioner is pleased to be the one to finally shut her heretical mouth. 

Tahirih herself remains the shadowy figure behind the screen, singing some of her strikingly sensuous religious and erotic poems to original music by Olam. 

With everyone assuring us that Tahirih was revolutionary, it isn’t until late in the script that we are told what she advocated – equal gender rights, elimination of the veil and polygamy, respect for other religions. 

The authors and performer create no real or imagined personality for her, and leave it up to us to decide whether Tahirih was just a historical footnote or had any lasting effect. So the power and value of this show lies almost entirely in introducing us to this little-known figure, not in convincing us of her importance or bringing her dramatically alive.

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Introduction to an early feminist gives us the facts but little sense of the woman