Gonge Khab Dideh
The Mute Who Was Dreamed [aka The Mute Dream]
Other Plays by Mohammad Charmshir
Other Plays by Atilla Pessyani
Pessyani, Atilla (aka Attila Pessyani, Iranian playwright, actor, director, founder of Theatre Bazi, 1957-____), and Mohammad Charmshir (Iranian playwright, actor, director, founder of Theatre Bazi, 19__-____), “Gonge Khab Dideh (The Mute Who Was Dreamed [aka The Mute Dream]),”
a 60-minute drama with music by Mohammadreza Aliqoli, translated from Farsi into English, set in a kitchen, Iran, 2001,
© 2001 by Atilla Pessyani;
• in Attila Pessyani and Mohammad Charmshir’s Gonge Khab Dideh [The Mute Who Was Dreamed] (Tehran, Iran: Theatre Bazi, 2001);
The Boy With the Umbrella (m), __, _____; Dream (m), __, a participating observer; Teacher (f), __, civilised, in a bigger coat; Student (f), teenage, a deaf-blind-mute pupil, in ear muffs, goggles and a big coat; Ushers (m or f extras), various ages; Security Police (m), various ages.
“We’re ushered to our seats by Hejab covered security police sternly shining their torches. Two people, their gender almost indiscernible, sit eating at opposite ends of long table, a live white duck stands between them. The adult person eats in a civilised fashion, the younger like a wild monkey gnaws at its meal. The girl Setareh Pessyani with the teacher, Setareh’s mother, Fatemeh Naghavi, give intense performances which draw you not just onto the stage but into the minds of these struggling humans. Between the edge of the stage and the audience is a wire fence, the director, father and husband of the actors, Attila Pessyani, sits behind it at one side, sometimes signing, playing live music or shining a torch to add illumination. The girl’s meal is suddenly removed and the adult attempts to introduce to the girl the world she can not see or hear. But she is rarely kind, often holding the girl’s hand over a flame, giving her scissors, a sharp knife, the dangers of the world aren’t shielded. Fascinating also are the teacher’s introductions to her pupil of the elements and other beings living in them, by way of a penitent’s mask and then the living duck, or the experience of water and a live swimming fish. The performances are accompanied by music from traditional to modern Iranian music and video showing war news, story-like images of the two, while the very few intelligible words are from varied religious texts some of which Western and Mideastern religions equally revere. As the girl learns the teacher changes, becoming less civilised. She introduces increasingly dangerous experiences, getting her pupil to use one half of a land mine as a mask, then helping her feel for them in the sand. Later the pupil takes charge, using a carving knife to cut flesh, placing the crown of lights on the teacher’s head, the same crown that teacher once made her wear. . . . [Thelma Good, April 11, 2002.”—Edinburgh Guide Theatre review - The Mute Who Was Dreamed, http://www.edinburghguide.com/aande/theatre/reviews/m/mute_who_was_dreamed.shtml, accessed July 23, 2002.
• The student cuts through the netting surrounding the stage and in a spotlight takes off her goggles.
• “Full of double and multi-meanings and symbols The Mute who Was Dreamed is extraordinary. Almost wordless, it speaks so eloquently of isolation and how difficult it is to understand or break through without destroying something precious and rare.”—Thelma Good.
• Performed at Riverside Studios, Crisp Road, London W6 9RL, England, April 16, 17, 2002.
• Samantha Ellis, April 20, 2002, in The Guardian, reviews the performance at Chapter, Cardiff, April 23 and 25, 2002: “There should be more ducks on stage. . . . [T]he duck provides a considerable distraction. It flaps, it potters, sometimes it makes a bid for freedom. Perhaps with this eventuality in mind, director Attila Pessyani designed his set as a coop . . . . Introducing her pupil to food, flame, lipstick and braille, Naghavi’s teacher lashes out mercilessly, and, at one point, apparently eats a goldfish live on stage. The violence, set to a soundtrack that veered from prog rock to Arabic ballads, is all the more terrifying because, with breathtaking dramatic irony, we have a constant ‘It’s behind you!’ advantage over the girl, who cannot see the teacher menacing her with a knife or a lit match. . . . Inspired also by ru’hozi (Iranian commedia dell’arte) [Peter Brook, at Shiraz Festival of Arts, Persepolis] produced Orghast, a play about myths clinging to the ancient pre-Persian language Avesta. As for [the legendary Pole Tadeusz] Kantor, there are definite traces of his weird performance style (machines and mannequins, mainly) in The Mute’s depersonalised dreamscape. The son of an actress, Pessyani first went on stage aged 10, and was in his teens when he worked on Orghast and played (appropriately, given his interest in mime and muteness) a nonspeaking part in Kantor’s Dainty Shapes and Hairy Apes. . . . According to the programme, the constraints created ‘a specific theatre language of metaphor and suggestion . . . which is clearly understood by the Iranian audience.’ The play is so obscure that the temptation to decode it is strong. But Pessyani said that even the hand gestures, which I had assumed were Farsi translated into sign language, had ‘no meaning. The girl can’t learn the language of the mute; it’s only her imagination. It’s that she wants to speak.’ His mute is ‘in darkness, but always hearing music. She is coming out of the darkness with a loud voice.’ It’s hard not to interpret this politically, and eavesdropping in the bar yielded a near consensus that the cooped-up women, and the mute’s frustrated attempts at speech, symbolised the Iranian people. But Pessyani says he’s not interested in political theatre. . . . Quoting a poem by the Farsi bard Rumi (‘I am a dumb who had a dream but all the world is deaf. I can’t say it and they can’t hear it’), he summed up his theatrical impulse as ‘trying to make dreams.’ But he did explain the goldfish (that old magic trick—a sculpted carrot) and, with his peculiar mix of empathy and whimsy, the duck: ‘It’s so strange. It’s a bird, but it can’t fly—just like the girl.’”—Samantha Ellis, April 20, 2002, Guardian Unlimited | Archive Search, http://www.guardian.co.uk/Archive/Article/0,4273,4397571,00.html, accessed July 23, 2002.
• “Would Helen Keller ever have broken free of her prison of silence if her teacher Annie Sullivan hadn't goaded her to do so? How far is love mixed with abuse in the teacher/ pupil relationship? In Iranian company Theatre Bazi's extraordinary performance piece [at Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh, Scotland], two women sit in a wire cage eating. One consumes her food with delicacy; the other - who is blind, deaf and dumb - eats messily. The teacher removes the food and forces the girl to read using Braille. The girl's resistance is met with more force. There is love in this abuse, even a warped tenderness. Without it, the girl would remain locked in darkness, silence and incomprehension. But how far will the teacher go, and what if she fails to take precautions with those scissors or that sharp knife? With its wordless scenario, haunting symbolism and flickering black-and-white images that play on torn strips of paper and rags, Attila Pessyani's production harks back to Kantor. That doesn't make it old-fashioned. Instead, this strange, compulsive hour full of crashing noise and softness seems timeless. It is as if it is playing on some loop, constantly re-creating the power struggle between teacher and pupil, government and citizen, prisoner and jailer - until revolution is inevitable and the deaf, dumb and blind find themselves blinking sightlessly in the light, edging their way painfully towards the door.” [Lyn Gardner, The Guardian, Saturday August 24, 2002]—The Mute Who Was Dreamed, Theatre Workshop, Edinburgh | Stage | The Guardian, http://www.guardian.co.uk/stage/2002/aug/24/theatre.artsfeatures1/print, accessed October 2, 2008.
• “Drawing from classical Persian dream narratives, ‘The Mute Who Was Dreamed’ depicts the world as experienced by a girl from the wilderness; a girl who is deaf, mute and blind. At the centre of all is a steadily intensifying conflict between a pupil and a teacher, ideas of obedience and rebellion and the meaning of education. This is magical, dreamlike and tense theatre. The script, by Atila Pessyani and Mohammad Charmshir, interweaves many sources: William Gibson’s Miracle Worker which dramatises the relationship of Helen Keller to her teacher Annie Sullivan; Handke’s Kaspar, Ionesco’s The Lesson; and Sophocles’s Antigone.”—Directory of performance listings | Arts Archive, http://www.arts-archive.com, accessed October 2, 2008. Performances in Glasgow, London and Cardiff.
• Theatre Bazi was founded by actor/director Atilla Pessyani. Atila trained with Peter Brook, Tadeusz Kantor and Yoshi Oida, and his productions echo these western influences as well as Iranian passion plays and rouhouzi, a form of commedia dell’arte. Produced by the Dramatic Arts Centre, Tehran, Iran.”—Theatre Bazi (Iran), http://www.thecpr.org.uk/iran.htm, accessed July 23.
• Research could include Neil Genzlinger’s Lincoln Center Festival 2002 review, "Interacting Without Words And Separated by a Duck," The New York Times, July 19, 2002, p. B3.
• Also, research could include Ta`zieh: Honar Bumi Pishro dar Iran [Taziyeh: Ritual and Drama in Iran], edited by Peter J. Chelkowski (Tehran, Iran: Scientific and Cultural Foundation, 1988/1367; or New York: New York University Press, 1979), ISBN 0814713750, 412 pp.
• Also, research could include W. O. Beeman’s Culture, Performance, and Communication in Iran (Tokyo, Japan: ICLAA, 1982), ru'hozi material, pp. 94-96, 102-117, 127-148.
• Also, research could include from among Mohammad Charmshir’s many plays, “There Is Nobody to Remember All the Stories”—”a play that due to it’s technical special aspects looks a bit strange and different . Dialogues & monologues of this play are mighty ones that in spite of unreal and strange situation make them real to the audience. Different shattered tales take place in different settings , and there is no logic—whether storical or dramatical—connection among scenes & acts. Each tale is a story of a situation that we have experienced it somewhere or may be read about it, yet putting all these experiences together moves toward script defamiliarization and destroys all real settings. Flowing of all these incidents in the play’s atmosphere, with no possible beginning or ending for any of them , reminds us different stanzas or lines that make a poem, and this feeling gets to strong that you start thinking that the play is based on poetical logic, not a dramatical one.”—AITF 13, http://www.nazmi.org/OM/fes.html, accessed October 3, 2008.
• Page mounted July 23, 2002, updated October 2, 3, 2008, by the Webmaster.
animal on stage, blindness, Braille, citizenship, darkness, deafness, education, Gonge Khab Dideh, incomprehension, government, power, prison, meaning of education, multimedia, musical accompaniment, muteness, obedience, rebellion, ru’hozi (Iranian commedia dell’arte), silence, symbolism, ta ’ziyeh'' (Iranian passion plays based on the life of Mohammed’s grandson Imam Hossein), teacher-pupil relationship.