The Chronicles of Irania ****1/2

The Chronicles of Irania is a theatre piece that is becoming rarer to find on the Fringe: a simple production with a gripping story that is told through a remarkable performance.  There are no gimmicks, elaborate design concepts or majorly choreographed movement on show here; just fine writing, directing and acting.

The narrative follows a parallel path, switching back and forth between a discussion set in Scotland on some of Iran’s more colourful cultural aspects and a testimony about personal loss and tragedy.

The audience meet a very bubbly woman who wants to teach cultural facts and fables from her beloved ‘Irania’.  She uses cute arts and crafts pieces to illustrate her story while serving tea and sweets.  She’s eager to please and happy to digress from her stories with opportunities to speak with the audience.

From time to time, however, memories from her past claw out.  Marked by dramatic shifts of lighting, the audience are presented with harsh flashes from the woman’s past, events that will connect in the end to tell a heartbreaking story of oppression and fear.

Actress Maryam Hamidi has managed to create a brilliant performance.  She switches between the jovial tales and the harsh political reality of her past with ease.  She gives a personable performance that teeters between warmth and fear, and she plays both narratives well.  Her contact with the audience makes her all the more sympathetic, especially near the end when the extent of the true horror she encountered in her past is finally revealed.

Mamidi’s director, Catrin Evans, also served as co-creator to the production, and together they have sewn together a fantastic piece of theatre.  The script they have created allows for Mamidi to play numerous emotions and to tell compelling stories while Evans is given numerous opportunities to enrich the production through pace and blocking.  They have created an inventive production filled with poignancy and insight.

The Chronicles of Irania is a phenomenal theatre piece.  It might not have the big production values and marketing schemes of many shows on the ‘Fringe’, but it does have plenty of pluck, intelligence and integrity.  It is a great production that contains one of the best performances I’ve seen this entire year.

Originally written for Onstage Scotland.

Playing at the Pleasance Courtyard at 13.30 until August 30.  Will also be at the Citizens from November 10-14.

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