NewsSpecial WireIran’s censors stop popular play on murder of dissidents

Iran’s censors stop popular play on murder of dissidents

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Iran Focus: Tehran, Iran, Jul. 30 – The showing of a play
staged by Iran’s leading playwright and theatre director came
to an abrupt end on Friday night on the orders of the Islamic Republic’s authorities. “A Play Portraying the Passions of Master Navid Makan and His Wife Engineer Rokhshid Farzin”, written and directed by Bahram Beizaii, debuted in Tehran’s … Iran Focus

Tehran, Iran, Jul. 30 – The showing of a play staged by Iran’s leading playwright and theatre director came to an abrupt end on Friday night on the orders of the Islamic Republic’s authorities.

“A Play Portraying the Passions of Master Navid Makan and His Wife Engineer Rokhshid Farzin”, written and directed by Bahram Beizaii, debuted in Tehran’s City Theatre on July 3 and was played to a packed house in 24 performances, before Iran’s cultural censors pulled the plug on it, almost a month ahead of its scheduled termination.

Beizaii, an icon of Iranian screen and stage, produced the play after a long hiatus. The production soon became a crowd-puller in a city suffering from chronic cultural starvation. Tickets quickly sold out for all performances in advance.

The play is a masterful portrayal of the murder of dozens of dissidents and intellectuals by Iran’s secret police in the 1990s and the cultural terror that the murders installed in Iranian society.

Navid Makan, a university lecturer purged by the Islamic authorities, and his wife Rokhshid, an architect, live in constant terror in their house in Tehran. The intellectual Makan, a writer and poet, has recurring nightmares of three faceless men in grey raincoats following him everywhere. He goes to the police to complain, but they dismiss his fears as mere illusion. Makan goes to a psychiatrist to seek help.

Makan’s spouse, played by Beizaii’s wife Mojdeh Shamsaii, is an architect who is renovating historic buildings. She, too, has the same nightmares as her husband. The couple is instantly recognisable by the Iranian audience as Darioush Forouhar and Parvaneh Eskandari, who were brutally murdered in their home in Tehran in 1997. The authorities later blamed the gruesome killings on “rogue officials” of the Ministry of Intelligence and Security, the secret police.

The abrupt end to the showing of the play came in a letter faxed to Tehran-based news organisations from the public relations office of the City Theatre. The announcement gave no reason for the unexpected decision.

A source in Tehran’s City Theatre, who spoke on the condition of anonymity, said the decision came after three “cultural advisers” to the newly-elected hard-line President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad attended a showing earlier this week. As the mayor of Tehran, Ahmadinejad expressed his opposition to “Western-style” theatre and turned many of the local theatres in Tehran into Hosseiniehs, or prayer halls.

Asked about the authorities’ decision to end the showing of the most successful Iranian play in recent memory, Beizaii simply said, “I don’t know. All I know is that it ends on Friday”.

The last showing of the play ended on Friday night to a standing ovation and long, rapturous applause by the packed house brimming with mostly young people.

“Why are you stopping this play”, shouted a man in the audience when the applause finally ended. “It’s written in the press”, retorted the City Theatre’s public relations officer Mohammad Bahrami.

Behind the stage, actors and actresses, some with tears in their eyes, expressed frustration and anger at the authorities’ decision to stop the play at the height of its success.

Beizaii, 68, is regarded as a master of contemporary Iranian dramatic arts. His plays and films, always carrying a strong political message, have aroused much anger in the ruling circles of Iran’s theocracy.

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