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For our collaborative theare project, Mehrfam, Asghar, Reza, Farhad and I have reflected on the experience of isolation during last year’s lockdown, sharing our thoughts with each other. We talked about writing pieces concerning the unique individual situation experienced by each during this time. From these initial conversations and ongoing consultations, individually, in pairs, and as a group, various texts have emerged.

Over three months and through open-ended conversations, Mehrfam, Asghar, Reza, and Farhad have finished drafts of writing, reflecting on their experiences of lockdown. Each took time to think about particular themes and to write their pieces independently. We have since been meeting once a week to read, discuss, reflect, interpret and share our understandings of the written material in order to prepare a performance based on these writings.

After the easing of the last lockdown about five weeks ago, we resumed our Wednesday meetings at the Institute of Postcolonial Studies. Over this time, we have spent our sessions discussing a series of relevant notions and affects associated with the states of mind of each participant. For example, we broached feelings and concepts such as context, emptiness, void, fear, dejection, neglect, loneliness, belonging and not belonging. In addition, we reflected on our understanding of alienation and how each felt separated from their own (self) and immediate environments in Naarm/Melbourne.

We have also held several workshops to gain a deeper understanding of the content of these writings. While doing this, we have used the Ashis Nandy Room toward sthe back of IPCS as a stage for physical action (where we’re acting and learning how to act), performing some selected parts of these writings, working on our psychological abilities as we return to these (inner) texts. This has been an invaluable opportunity for us to hear each other’s narratives and selectively perform them, both experimenting with monologues and dialogues. 

We have reached a stage where through the sessions and workshops we are more confidently approaching the idea of a theatrical performance. Over the last fortnight, we have focused on paying close attention to the text as a piece for performance, seeking to bring together the various texts and monologues into what may become a cohesive and arresting performance. 

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CONTRIBUTORS

Mammad Aidani

Dr Mammad Aidani is a playwright and theatre director and holds a PhD in hermeneutics, phenomenology and existential psychology and an MA in sociolinguistics and identity. Mammad’s research focuses on Middle Eastern communities, especially Iranians who have experienced violence and torture, suffering in the diaspora, and have to address forms of social and cultural alienation both in their home countries and the countries in which they have resettled in the West.

In 2019, Mammad spearheaded the collaborative project “Writing in Exile” between PEN International Melbourne and the Wheeler Centre. He is a committee member of PEN International Melbourne and is its current Vice President. Mammad’s play “In the mirror” was staged at La Mama Theatre (Melbourne) in July this year.

Mamad is an IPCS visiting fellow for 2021.

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