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For our collaborative theatre project, Mehrfam, Asghar, Reza, Farhad and I have reflected on the experience of isolation during last year’s extended lockdown, sharing our thoughts with each other. We agreed to write pieces concerning the situation we each experienced during this time. From our initial and ongoing conversations, individually, in pairs, and as a group, various texts have emerged.

Over three months, Mehrfam, Asghar, Reza, and Farhad have finished drafts of writing. Each took time to think and write about particular themes that resonated with their experience. 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 more recent lockdown about five weeks ago, we resumed our Wednesday meetings at IPCS. We have spent our sessions discussing concepts and affects associated with participants’ states of mind. We broached feelings and concepts of emptiness, void, fear, dejection, neglect, loneliness, belonging and not belonging. In addition, we reflected on our understanding of alienation and the experience of feeling separated from self as well as  immediate environments in Naarm/Melbourne.

We have held several workshops to engage more deeply with participants’ writings. The Ashis Nandy Room has been our stage for physical action — where we’re acting and learning how to act— performing selected parts of the men’s writings, working on our psychological abilities as we return to these (inner) texts. This has been an invaluable opportunity for us to hear, discuss, and selectively perform each other’s narratives, experimenting with monologues and dialogues. 

Through this process we have reached a stage of being able to more confidently approach 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, working to bring together the various texts and monologues into what promises to be 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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