Peyvand Sadeghian’s one-woman show about her mixed British-Iranian heritage refuses to commit to any one style of performance. One moment Sadeghian is using drag to parody dictators, the next she is twisting her body in a display of emotive physical theatre. The result is undeniably thought-provoking but something of a mishmash.
The play opens with Sadeghian donning a turban, white beard and black gown as part of her transformation into “the dictator of fun”. The audience is encouraged to throw their arms in the air and copy Sadeghian’s moves not once, not twice but four times. By the fourth round, even Sadeghian is visibly wearying.
The other attempts at audience participation in Nastazja Somers’ production work better, particularly the inspired game show – Wheel of Fortune meets passport lottery – which takes a dig at the UK’s nonsensical immigration controls.
The show is littered with misunderstandings and stereotypes, from Sadeghian’s comic dictator to her broken translation of Farsi, highlighting the prejudiced lens through which Western countries can view the Middle East.
Al Orange’s video projections are in danger of stealing the show. A potted history of Iran, complete with hand puppets, archive interviews of Iranian leaders and diary-style extracts all feature, but the projections are most effective when showing footage of mass demonstrations, a red wash splashed across the wall casting the images of revolution in a bloody glow.
Ultimately, though, this is a piece about belonging – where do you belong if you’re “not to be carved up across continents”? Sadeghian’s jolting physical theatre and the glitchy video footage point towards an unresolved feeling of being torn and stuck between two conflicting worlds.