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Transit

Created by Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh, written by Steven Gaythorpe
Zendeh
Northern Stage, Newcastle
to

In Zendeh’s latest production, Transit, on 4 July 1988 Darya (played by Brianna Douglas) and her father Roger (Matt Jamie) meet, for the first time in ten years, in the transit lounge of Schiphol Airport, Amsterdam.

Ten years ago, at the age of 9, she had gone with her mother to Iran, her mother’s homeland, while he stayed in Britain with their other two daughters because, as a musician, there would not be the career opportunities for him there that he would have at home. He gave his daughters the choice of staying or going; Darya chose to go. Now her mother is dead, killed in the Iran/Iraq War; sheis going to university in New York; her father is a successful musician and Professor of Music, and the two other girls, having changed their Iranian names to Rachael and Gillian, have now cut themselves off from their father.

Overtones of King Lear.

The staging is interesting. Just to the left of stage centre a video screen describes the ambient sound (for example: clock ticks; sound of approaching storm, piano) or shows the dialogue being spoken. You might consider it as simply surtitles, making the play more accessible, but for its very strong positioning, drawing the eye.

On stage right there are panels on which black and white drawings (by Erin McGrath) appropriate to the action are projected: the silhouette of a girl standing in an airport walkway; details of a storm or an explosion, or a date, among others.

Centre stage is a group of airport lounge seats which can be swung through 360 degrees, to suggest a different airport at a different time. A solitary standard lamp stands close by.

We move back and forward in time, from the play’s present (1988) to a time of Darya's childhood before she and her mother left, to their arrival in Iran, to the air raid in which the mother is killed, to other important moments. Some scenes are brief, others extended. There are paper aeroplanes, hand gestures, finger nails digging into the backs of hands, music by Joy Division, "Ave Maria", Maria Callas.

Transit is directed by Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh with music by Mariam Rezaei and choreography by Nadia Iftkhar.

As the story unfolds, gradually our understanding of the characters grows, Darya’s complexity emerges but Roger is shown to be, quite simply, solipsistic, unable to see any point of view but his own.

Lots of great ideas and complexity of metaphor (the approaching storm is rich with suggestion) but to me it felt a little fragmented, the fragmentation being perhaps of the emotional rather than the narrative arc, and so its impact was less than it might have been.

Transit to tours to The Byre, St Andrews (7 – 8 February); Rich Mix, London (26 February); Octagon, Bolton (28 February); Arts Centre Washington (2 March); Tron, Glasgow (9 – 11 March); Traverse Edinburgh (14 – 15 March) and The Witham, Barnard Castle (17 March).

Reviewer: Peter Lathan