It’s now two months since the Iranian Titus Company production of Coriolanus DIDN’T come to the York International Festival – or, at least, not in the embodied sense of live actors on the stage we had prepared for them. We quickly move on from last month’s news, but as we continue to watch the news and to debate who should have the freedom to move and where, this is just as relevant now as it was in May. Here is a link to Rachel Atkin’s piece for York St John’s Point Zero blog, followed by a link to a piece in the York Press
On Monday 15th and Tuesday 16th, I had the pleasure of being invited to see an Iranian production of Coriolanus, performed by the Titus Company from the University of Tehran. Though the company themselves were absent, due to the British Embassy’s decision to not provide visas, we were provided with a recorded version of an alienating, experimental, and yet hugely emotive piece of theatre. In a Letter of Grief, director Hamed Asgharzadeh wrote: “Eventually we humans someday will meet each other through human drama and we will share our experience to improve our situation”. One of the goals of this festival is to provide a voice to those who are denied it. Though unable to meet the company in person, through the organization of York Theatre Royal and Philip Parr we were still able to see some images of this ground-breaking production. Theatre, no matter where it is done and in what language, provides that voice, and the recording was able to provide it too. Despite the bad news, the audience that came to watch became an outlet for all the hard work the Titus Company had put into their production. In our age, one has to remember not to deny the importance of the arts and the spoken word, even at times when it does not affect us directly.
York Press reported on this, noting the local MP Rachael Maskell’s response
“The Government have hardened their stance, making the assumption that despite all the paperwork being in order and people do not want to stay here, they should not be granted short-term access to the UK,” she said. “This is having a detrimental impact on sponsoring organisations, and in this case, on the cultural opportunities of the city. “Rather than making general assumptions about individuals and organisations, the paperwork should be examined in detail and each case dealt with on the basis of whether it fits the criteria.”