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Theatre companies announce co-production of Welsh-Iranian play Baba Joon

25 Sep 2023 3 minute read
Lisa Zahra (photography YellowBelly) and Izzy Rabey

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?

Belonging

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 RunnerThe 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.”

Complexity

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.


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George Thomas
George Thomas
5 months ago

Nation building!

Mab Meirion
Mab Meirion
5 months ago

Is there a chance of reading the script of Baba Joon, taking the play to the US west coast, how cool is that ! The courage of the ladies of Iran blows me away, total respect. Maybe you could write something that puts Braverman in her place, behind bars…We have some venues here in the North West and we are ever hopeful of some some dramatic traffic coming north on the A470, I used to love the works and talent of the Hijinx Theatre Company…

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