Edinburgh Festival Fringe theatre review: Cinema, reviewed by The Scotsman’s Susan Mansfield.
On 19 August, 1978, a fire in the Cinema Rex in Abadan, Iran, killed more than 400 people. Started deliberately, it has been described as the worst single act of terrorism prior to 9/11. Steven Gaythorpe’s play, performed by Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambaksh of theatre company Zendeh, tells this story, but from an unusual viewpoint: that of the cinema’s cat. Shahrzad, named for the clever storyteller who outsmarts the Shah in 1001 Nights, believes she can keep her “family” alive by telling their stories, intermingled with tales from her own nine lives. Her audience is Death, sitting in the burned out building, appalled at this “unscheduled” slaughter.
Yet, despite the originality of the idea, Cinema doesn’t quite engage its audience in the way it should. The writing, while competent, does not sparkle, sounding more like a reflection on the event than the voice of an articulate feline. The performance, delivered against the distraction of a flickering cinematic backdrop, is competent, too, but lacks the range and originality the play’s premise leads one to expect.
Summerhall (Venue 26) until 30 August / listings
Published in The Scotsman on 18 August 2015
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