Javaad Alipoor Company (UK) and Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta (NTofP), playing as part of the Sydney Festival, 2024.
“Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” - a co-production between the Javaad Alipoor Company and National Theatre Parramatta – makes its Sydney Festival debut as a full-scale production following a work-in-progress showing as part of Sydney Festival in 2022. Alipoor and cast members Asha Reid and Raam Emami work alongside Australian creatives Benjamin Brockman (lighting and productioin design) and Me-Lee Hay (composer and musician) with excellent results. Regular Javaad Alipoor fans get what they expect – a guaranteed dopamine hit from visually detailed staging and mind-expanding text.
In 1992 Iranian popstar Fereydoun Farrokhzad was found brutally murdered in his while living as a refugee in Germany – stabbed more than 70 times, his tongue was cut out, and his genitals cut off. The case was never solved. “Things Hidden” is an investigation into this iconic murder and an interrogation into the nature of investigation. It’s a world of murder mystery podcasts that presents everything in the world as knowable. It aims to show the audience how, in this age of information, our ability to truly grasp knowledge is distorted by satisfying Wikipedia deep dives and endless podcasts that present their own version of events, revealed at truth. As Alipoor brilliantly demonstrates, knowledge is not the same as understanding.
As with all Alipoor’s work this is also about the impossibility of translation, the reproduction of colonial structures, and the way the internet shapes our sense of knowing. It “gleefully mashes up genres, smashing together the quiet authority of the murder mystery podcast, the intimacy of autobiographical storytelling, and the visual spectacle of multimedia performance — while simultaneously deconstructing each of these forms.” (The Guardian)
“Things Hidden” challenges us to look to the periphery of society in the global North – to acknowledge subaltern groups and their invisibility to a majority who have no need to look for them.
The production also stars King Raam, a hugely successful Iranian artist – one so controversial that Canadian officials came knocking on his door to tell him that Iran wanted him dead. At first, Raam appears only in video footage, before we catch a glimpse of him behind a screen, and then he later steps on stage and addresses us directly. It is in this speech that he tells us about Iran wanting him dead, and he even jokes that if any of us in the audience are there to kill him, now would be a poetic time to do it! His personal story is actually the easiest to empathise with of all the content in “Things Hidden”. His father, and environmental activist, mysteriously died while imprisoned. Raam is worth the deep dive into Wikipedia and for my money he steals the show! The confusion of those in political exile who yearn for a homeland to which they cannot return is deeply moving.
“Things Hidden” can be endlessly analysed and deconstructed. This is a world where anyone with a platform can rewrite the facts. If you get the chance go watch it yourself. Recommended.