Dual, VAULT Festival

by Laura Kressly

Peyvand Sadeghian was born in Canning Town, and East London runs through her veins. Yet, there’s also the scent of something else, from somewhere far away – rose water and pomegranate, from an ancient civilisation the western world loves to demonise. She doesn’t give this much thought until she is 10 years old and first travels to Iran with her father. This is a turning point in her life; it’s when she finds she is not just one person, but two. As well as Peyvand the Londoner, she’s also Parisa the Persian girl. These two identities are set in opposition in this deliberately messy collage about having multiple citizenships and identities, and embedded with a spirit of revolution.

Sadeghian narrates moments from her past, in between voiceovers of her father, video interviews of Iranian leaders, childlike puppet shows, and abstract imagery. The movement sequences combining, struggle, strength and physical restraint are nuanced snapshots of internal feelings. There’s also some joyful and funny interaction with a drag character she created, but the repeated reminders that we’re not allowed to talk about who this character is based on are serious and sobering.

As a whole, the effect is a complex mosaic, with each scene revealing a new aspect of her personal history, global politics and the tension between her two nations on a macro and micro scale. She rends traditional dramaturgies into something new, that’s non-linear, episodic and dreamlike. Sometimes those dreams are more like nightmares. Sometimes they’re angry, sometimes frustrated and conflicted, sometimes playful. In any case, the effect is one of taking the various bits of a subconscious that are always wrestling with each other, and putting them on stage in all their disorganised, colourful glory.

The design is particularly sophisticated for a festival show, with the patchwork aesthetic of the show’s structure also being evident in projections by Al Orange. Three differently-textured panels are the backdrop for numerous images and video segments. These too often overlap or are displayed simultaneously. It’s evidence of masterful direction by Nastazja Somers.

Though it certainly feels like there is potential to develop this show further and expand some of the many, individual narratives it contains, it’s also immensely recognisable – in both feeling and image – to immigrants, third culture kids, and people with multiple national identities, in its current form. Being split across different countries and cultures doesn’t mean that individual parts of a person fit neatly into little, labeled boxes. Instead, they swirl around within you, sometimes playing nicely and sometimes declaring war against each other.

Dual runs through 23 February.

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