by Mohammad Yaghoubi
Playing at SummerWorks 2016
Shiva wakes up to find she has been asleep for three years. In that time, the world around her has changed drastically. Her friends and family seem different. Strangers act oddly. It’s Iran in 1980 and she has just slept through the Islamic Revolution. For the next ten years, Shiva continues to fall asleep for years at a time. Each time she wakes up there’s a new change she has to try to grasp: the war with Iraq, a series of murders of dissident artists as well as transformations in her own family. Meanwhile, the playwright creating Shiva’s story begins to receive phone calls threatening his life.
"A Moment of Silence" is written by the award-winning, playwright, director and screenwriter, Mohammad Yaghoubi, and has been translated and performed in several languages. The play makes its Canadian debut at SummerWorks 2016 and is the first English-language of Nowadays Theatre. I haven't read the text, but considering its accolades on the international theatre scene, I think there must be something lost in translation because the production I saw recently failed on several levels.
The use of surtitles for an English-Language play baffled me. As the captions were stage directions, I assumed that they were a deconstructionist tool used to reference the act of writing, but their use was inconsistent throughout the performance. At one point, there is even a captioned footnote about a writer who died in Canada. Why? I don't know. The best use of the surtitles was in letting us know what year it is when Shiva wakes up, but even then, the titles didn't appear for the last year.
I'm sure that in the original work, Shiva must come across as confused and angry at her circumstances. For better or ill, life is roiling by her, and she has no way of determining her fate; she can't live her life, only react to her situation upon waking. Each time she awoke, I hoped for some connection to her plight, and each time the actor let down me down. The anger was there, but where was the despair, the loneliness, the frustration and fear? This production offered a strident, one-note Shiva who bored instead of engaged me.
"A Moment of Silence" should have resonated with the importance of its subject matter; instead I ( and other theatregoers) couldn't leave the theatre fast enough. I am always recommending Iranian films to my friends and readers/listeners, and had hoped to do the same with this play. Sadly, frustratingly, I cannot. I will, however, seek out the text so that I can compare what I have seen to what is intended. It's a play in high regard, after all!
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If You Must...
A MOMENT OF SILENCE
Factory Theatre Mainspace
125 Bathurst Street (south of Queen, north of King)
Saturday, August 13, 3:30 pm
Sunday, August 14, 2:45 pm
$15 General Admission, no latecomers