A Persian Puppeteer in London

By Tara Biglari

“Dream and Destiny: Persian Modern Tales” was the title of a show performed at the Little Angel Theatre in Islington, north London, in September. It was the work of the Little Giants Theatre, which uses stories, puppets, masks, actors, video and even the audience to carry the show. Viewers are taken on a journey that makes them both laugh and think.

Kayhan Life caught up with director, designer and producer Roshi Aba for a conversation about the show and her journey through the world of storytelling.

What is the play about and what inspired you to produce it?

The play is a set of modern tales, similar to fairy tales but covering modern-day events. It is a tragicomedy. I chose these stories because 15 years ago, I read a book by my now favorite writer, Alireza Mirasadollah, and fell in love with his way of story-telling. He is very good at playing mind games with readers.

The first story is about a young guitarist who is crossing the desert to see his beautiful young fiancée, but comes across a man-eating monster. He knows he will be eaten, but realizes that with the power of art, he can change the heart of the monster. My point is, the ending is not what you expect.

“Dream and Destiny” rehearsal at the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama with puppeteers (L to R) Rae Xu, Alejandra Guarin, the puppet ‘A Girl Who Had Only One Wish,’ Clare McCall, the puppet ‘Young Guitarist,’ Roshi Aba and Alireza Mirasadollah.

The last story is called ‘Invisible Milk’ in Farsi, and it is a rhythmical poem about how a saint is created. There is a fantastic Iranian mood to it, but the show also represents diversity, as it collaborates with artists from China, South Korea, Colombia, Iran, Italy and the U.K.

According to Mirasadollah, now the co-artistic director (with myself) of Little Giants Theatre, the production shares with the audience his take on life, including his joy, his search for answers, his fear, and his fantasies.

Can you speak about your life story and background? Where did you grow up and how did you come to puppeteering?

I was born and grew up in Iran. I now live in London, where I work as an actor and theater director. I hold a BA in French translation from Azad University in Iran.

I always had an interest in theater, but developed it throughout my time at university. I performed in plays by Molière and Shakespeare, and in a number of short films, which led me to direct my own short films, including ‘La Maladie d’Amour.’

I’m now channelling my love for puppeteering with ‘Dream and Destiny: Persian Modern Tales.’ I love puppetry because you are the king of your own kingdom. In my case, I am the queen of my land; I can control the characters and treat them the way I like without feeling worried.

Apart from the show, I am currently completing my MA in Advanced Theatre Practice degree from the Royal Central School of Speech and Drama in London.

How has your Iranian heritage influenced your art form? Puppeteering has been a popular form of entertainment among Iranians across the ages – are you drawing inspiration from that tradition at all?

I believe that every artist is influenced by his or her cultural heritage. As an artist, Iranian culture is naturally reflected in my work. I use all the elements that I have been familiar with throughout my life, including puppetry, poetry, music and dance; all of which have deep roots in Iran.

How are audiences reacting to your shows? Who are they?

The nature of audiences actually depends on the language in which I am working. As I use different languages in plays, different audiences are attracted each time. When I performed Molière in French, most of the audience was French. Similarly, the works in Farsi naturally attract a more noticeable Farsi-speaking audience.

As this production is in more than two languages, mainly English and Farsi, I anticipate a completely mixed audience. So far, the reactions have been very positive, and it’s exciting to engage with the Iranian community in London.

Do you have any other shows planned for the future?

We are planning on performing this play a few more times in the near future, going on to produce a video before taking it on tour.

The next performance of “Dream and Destiny” will be at the “Clapham Fringe Festival 2017” in London, October 3 at 7:00 pm.