As we transition into summer from spring, so have begun the series of IKSV Festivals: the just over Theatre Festival, the ongoing Music Festival, and the upcoming Jazz Festival. The month of May was the host of the 20th Istanbul Theatre Festival, a series of over thirty plays played across three weeks, bringing together national and international works alike, performed across a dozen stages throughout the city, and made possible with the collaboration, cooperation, insights and support of many, many contributors — from the Ministry of Culture, to municipalities, to theatre companies public and private alike, and many institutions and centers of culture and the arts.
The festival featured nine international plays (including from the UK, France, South Africa and Iran) and twenty-three national plays. Among the several I have had the opportunity to watch, one in particular caught my attention, in both story and artistry: “Ham Havâyi,” or “A little more every day,” as it has been called in international festivals. “Ham Havâyi” is a production of the Iran-based Shieveh Theathre Group, directed by Afsaneh Mahian . It has been featured in Paris as well, with the name “Chaque Jour, un Peu de Piu,” across weeks, with sold-out tickets. It has also received quite a bit of attention in its home country of Iran. And for me, it was the highlight of the 20th IKSV Festival.
Ham Havâyi starts off in 1978, just before the revolution, with three Persian ladies going about their daily tasks, each in their own kitchen, in the most non-chalant of manners and light of moods. Yet, each passing day is to bring darker and darker days… “Every day, a little more” of it, until in the end, we are left with nothing but utter tragedy. Modest stage design, only monologues, and a tragedy that escalates by the minute… And yet, the mastery of drama, the captivating plot, and the award-winning script keeps the audience in constant anticipation and wonder. “Every day a little more,” the plot unfolds, and every moment, the audience becomes more and more captivated.
Ham Havâyi drew my attention in one more respect: It made my previously oblivious self discover that the very conservative nation of Iran is also home to national theatre groups that produce such stellar plays as this one. Not only that, they also have an entire industry around it, including festivals, associations, critiques, and a liberal mechanism of acknowledgment and appreciation through awards. The play was awarded with the titles of “Best Original Script” and “Best Theatre Actress” in the “Tehran Theatre Festival” in January 2015. Along the same line, “The Association of Persian Theatre Critiques” acknowledged it with the awards for “Best Play” and “Best Director.” Explicit approval and appreciation of a Persian play produced, directed, and played by Persian women; openly addressing the implications that Islamic Revolution of Iran had on their lives. And this discovery also made the play all the more valuable and memorable for me.
Photograph by Ali Guler and courtesy of IKSV Photo.