Devil's Ship (4 stars)

This article is from 2008.

Devil's Ship

Intriguing, atmospheric Iranian chiller

This Iranian story, with a lurking subtext of supernatural horror, performed in Farsi with English subtitles by Bazi Theatre Company, features a group of women in a claustrophobic emotional vacuum. While the women rely on custom to get them through the day they are also tempted by rebellion as dusk descends and are haunted by specifically patriarchal ghosts.

The story focuses on a woman of 50 whose husband has disappeared into the mists surrounding the island on which she dwells, is bringing up two twenty-something daughters and a daughter-in-law, who appears to have been widowed. The motherʼs presumed dead son and missing husband haunt each of the women, as does a possible suitor, who may or may not have murdered the son. Events come to a head on the drab, overheated sandy island on the night of the inverted crescent moon known as the Devilʼs Ship.

Attila Pesyaniʼs production on a sandy set of his own design pulls its pacing back to creepy stealth, and on this island of women, uses the symbolism of everyday objects such as lost pins, iPods and books in a manner that causes each to assume a dread that far outweighs its quotidian status. Meanwhile, a battle between family obligation and repression works its way through each character, as issues about womenʼs power to use their imagination in order to escape oppression finds voice in various ways.

Ankido Darash’s electronic score and use of didgeridoos adds eeriness to proceedings, and the performances are undeniably strong. Yet, beyond certain cultural signals that might be lost on a Western audience, I’m not sure this piece has more resonance than an old fashioned chiller. Still, itʼs an intriguing and atmospheric little curio.

The Hub, 473 2000, until 27 Aug, 8pm, £17.

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