Theatre companies announce co-production of Welsh-Iranian play Baba Joon
Two theatre companies are collaborating on the debut play by Welsh-Iranian performer and playwright, Lisa Zahra.
Award winning Cardiff pub theatre, The Other Room, and Swansea theatre company, Grand Ambition, will be co-producing the play, Baba Joon (Father Dear), which premieres next month
Written and performed by Lisa Zahra, who was herself raised in Swansea by an Iranian father and a Welsh mother, the play explores themes of identity, belonging, family heritage and the concept of home.
With humour, spoken word, physical movement and a soundtrack combining 90s dance music with traditional Iranian tunes, Baba Joon is billed as an evocative portrayal of one man’s experiences of arriving in Wales from Iran in the 1970s and his daughter’s navigation through the joys and complexities of being from a mixed heritage family living in South Wales.
She yearns to visit her father’s country, but with the ongoing struggles and experiences of Iranian women, will that freedom ever come?
Zahra’s writing debut, Baba Joon, began life during lockdown and was then chosen for The Royal Court new writers group 2021, before being commissioned through The Other Room’s 3 Phase Participation Project.
Zahra said: “I am so excited to be back home in Swansea working on Baba Joon at the Grand Theatre, it’s where it all started for me at just 14.
“I’m returning home after living and working in London for 12 years where I was always pining for the sea and mountains. I’ve been part of some wonderful productions in the West End and National Theatre such as The Kite Runner, The Boy With Two Hearts and more recently Grenfell.
“They have all explored the themes of immigration, community and belonging, which always brings me back to thinking of home, and how Wales has that warm and friendly welcome for all who land here, with a strong sense of community in its heart. What better place to be returning to to share the story of my upbringing.”
Director Izzy Rabey, a former Assistant Director at The Other Room, said: “It’s one of my biggest joys as a director to work with writer/performers on new stories and to have a story about Welsh Middle Eastern identity and the complexity of mixed heritage with such a brilliant performer is a real honour for me.
“What I really love about this piece is that it doesn’t ever solve the complex feelings of not fitting in or being brown or white enough whilst belonging to different cultures, it celebrates the messiness of that. The pride in it. Lisa has expressed this so beautifully.”
Dan Jones, the Artistic Director of The Other Room, said: “There is no doubt that the city of Swansea is at the heart of Lisa’s writing. Baba Joon is bursting with poetry, with honesty and rage. From protest to the deeply personal, from global geo-political events to Swansea’s Kingsway – what Lisa is doing with this story is one of the bravest feats I have seen a writer/actor take on.”
Baba Joon will run at Swansea Grand Theatre from October 17 to October 21 before transferring to California, where it will be performed in San Francisco and San Jose.
Following the California tour, it will return to be part of The Other Room’s opening season at its new venue in Barrack Lane in early 2024.
Support our Nation today
For the price of a cup of coffee a month you can help us create an independent, not-for-profit, national news service for the people of Wales, by the people of Wales.