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Heart

Steven Gaythorpe
Zendeh
Traverse Theatre, Edinburgh

Matt Jamie as Arthur, Tarrick Benham as Kais and Serena Manteghi as Leili

With the Lyceum's Pressure heading south to Chichester, Heart offers an insight into another mid-20th century conflict and shows once again how theatre in a simple, elegant way can bring history back to life.

Heart deals with the overthrow of Iran's Prime Minister Mohammed Mosaddegh in 1953, known as the 28 Mordad Coup. It is not an event you hear a lot about in Britain, no doubt because it was rather a dark chapter in our nation's history.

The set consists of just a minimal academic study and some chairs and allows the action to move between Tehran and Durham. The plot centres around a love triangle between Leili (Serena Manteghi) a young Iranian and her two lovers: Kais (Tarrick Benham) a Syrian poet and Arthur (Matt Jamie) an English academic.

Music, poetry and dance allow these three performers to tell this story of passion, politics and pain. Though it takes a while to get drawn into the play, by the end everyone is on the edge of their seats.

The central and strongest performance is that of Manteghi who gives a very moving portrayal of young woman who unwittingly assists in the downfall of the leader she has faith in. Manteghi has a fine voice and performs several dances too. Through all her troubles, though she breaks down, she always kept her dignity which was very powerful.

Benham as her childhood sweetheart, has just the right look of passion in his eyes and smooth voice for poetry. Great physicaliy too, particularly his solo riot piece.

Jamie, although he seems like a pale repressed Englishman, is not without power; his character far from being timid is in fact strong and dangerous. A spy hiding behind an academic front, a very English trope, he has his political beliefs too, a belief in Britain.

The play throws light on Britain's underhand push to keep oil in the hands of British companies. Britain does not come off well and nor should it. The play is not totally one-sided, it doesn't forget Mosaddegh's communist leanings.

A bittersweet but beautiful romance that also sadly reminds you how little our leaders have changed in sixty years.

Reviewer: Seth Ewin