The Actors Centre

CINEMA at the Tristan Bates

19 October 2015

Telling stories about the moments when political and personal meets

I chose to tell this story as it’s one that had such a defining effect on Iran, but it is not an event that’s so well known in the west, or at home here in the UK. I tell stories about those moments where political and personal meets, and the Rex Cinema Fire is such a deeply personal event before we started exploring the politics. I think telling this story taps into that feeling we all have about an event or happening, one of those moments that we remember where we were and how things changed.

I feel this is a really important story for us to hear in the UK. Iran is so many things in the news - and in 1978 - the Rex Cinema Fire re-shaped the country and made history, yes. But there were over 700 people in that cinema just for a night out, a regular Friday night - and 422 did not make it home. What are their stories? Those are the people that interest me. 

We’re really excited to come and play and share this story at Tristan Bates.

I perform the show on my own, on stage, for the most part playing a feral cat called Shahrzad. We made this play with the cat at the centre as I don’t know quite how a human tells a story of such loss of life, devastation, and heart-break. In Iran, feral cats rule, they are not so much kept as pet cats. They are just there. Sneaking around, looking out for number one. Once in Tehran I saw a cat wander across the stage during a huge festival production as if it owned the stage too. That’s how I feel about Shahrzad, the cat at the centre of CINEMA - that it was her cinema, her home too. For her to come back to her home, and to see the devastation wreaked, the place of safety to so many used as a political pawn - that’s an even more poignant way in for me as an actor to tell a story. But, cheekily, we can also place that alongside how a cat really does see things - priorities? Belly rub and a saucer of milk. And we have to admire our storyteller for that, she tells us what happens and why her friends are no longer there to do just that for her, and to what end? I would love to see you in the audience at our Cinema this week, so we can reflect on those choices - and ours - and remember those that didn’t have one that night.


Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh – performer of CINEMA and artistic director of Zendeh Theatre

CINEMA plays at the Tristan Bates Theatre, Mon 19 – Sat 24 Oct: