Thursday, 12 March 2009

'fall of the peacock throne' (wildbird)

Wildbird presents
Fall of the Peacock Throne
by Chris Lee
Southwark Playhouse
March 5th 2009 - March 28th 2009
Show starts: 7.30pm
Running time: 100mins

Directed by - Chris Lee
Multimedia - Graeme Roger
Sound Design - Dave Martin
Lighting Design - Ali Ross

Creative Team
Directed by -
Chris Lee
Multimedia -
Graeme Roger
Sound Design - Dave Martin
Lighting Design - Ali Ross

Innovative new Highland theatre company, Wildbird, presents the world premiere of Fall of the Peacock Throne.
Raymond Chandler meets Greek tragedy in this political thriller charting the story of the 1953 Iranian coup alongside that of Alexander’s invasion of Persia in 333BC.
Coinciding with the 30th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic revolution the play depicts the moment when fledging Iranian democracy was strangled at birth in favour of British oil interests and US cold war strategy. This is one of the biggest skeletons in the western closet and the root cause of the so-called ‘war on terror’, a defining event that lies at the heart of western fear of the Islamic world.
Intimate in its design and execution, but epic in reach, Fall of the Peacock Throne tackles issues of conscience, empire, freedom, and power. This is a story everyone should know, whose timeless echoes thunder in our ears, demanding to be heard.
Wildbird are a new contemporary performance and multi arts company from Moray in the north east of Scotland. The artistic team was originally brought together to work on National Theatre of Scotland’s Crucible and Macbeth projects and formed Wildbird in 2006. Wildbird set out to make work that is epic, political and truly theatrical, tackling difficult and important subjects. Fall of the Peacock Throne is their second full length theatre production.

We walk into a hazy disorientating space cut through with laser beams. A projection says Tehran 1953 and when this simple sign is multiplied around the walls and the great vaulted brick ceiling we feel like we are not just getting information but inhabiting Tehran 1953. After this the film & lighting effects are more cosmetic diversions than integrated into the performance.

Athena arrives as the chorus - supplying narration, commentary and with us witness to the dual stories of opposing powers - FBI man Kermit Roosevelt vs. Mossadeq and Alexander vs. Darius in a much earlier coup. Athena is given power to apparently manipulate too - both by incitement to violent domination and in her apparent arrangements of battles. A pity then that the only female character has to be such a stereotypical sex symbol.

The play is mostly words and there are a lot of them. It seems amateur in the old fashioned sense of people doing it because they cared altho unfortunately the acting has too much of an amateurish quality and needed a much stronger performance style - more in the Brechtian mould and less or much better focused naturalism. But you sense great integrity in the writing- we trusted the material and the ethics that come with it. And it is most certainly a story that wants telling.

Playing it traverse does not harm it at all, but it didn’t add anything either: the adversarial tension of the two opposing forces wasn't revealed any more sharply in this stand-off spatial arrangement in the ways it was used so effectively in scotland thing and russian one.
The show remains Earthbound by perhaps too much stuff and too many words and probably too little distance by its writer to fully make the performance soar. But the material is good enough to easily imagine another director or company with greater objective distance giving it fuller flight.

Post Show Talk with Chris Lee
Script a combination of real stuff and stuff I've written
Also cf. 'Counter Coup' by Kermit Roosevelt

This coup was the first prototype american coup -there have been 36 since then

Iran was riddled with MI6 at this time, the British had only recently been kicked out

One of the things I wanted to explore living is Aberdeenshire where most families are employed by BP The most important thing I wanted you to get was that Mossadeq stayed true to his principles

For the last decade most plays seem to be about two people or stage talking about their feelings but I don’t get out to theatre much

I wanted to look at the idea of power - power as a moral force. But also about leadership. But also it’s about empire as well. And also to address the issue that our politicians stand up and say one thing but do another and lie about it.

Meant to make it feel like a film noi with Athena as femme fatale
The battle scene film from Cecil B de Mille's ‘Ten Commandments’

Inspiration was wanting to say something about the Iraq war. And I’ve known Ali since I was born and l wanted to honour that. Wrote the first bits in 2000. and its the 3Oth anniversary of the revolution this year. If you didn't know this story you could be fooled into fighting a war thinking it was ‘a just war’.

For these things to be done and then swept under the carpet isn't right so we need to tell stories about it.

Churchill’s memo to Eisenhower: ‘After we've got rid of Mossadeq I won't touch your oil in Saudi Arabia if you don't touch mine in Iraq’.
Mossadeq’s last speech 'They will say about me...’ are all things they did say about him in the commons.

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