‘Hamlet’ reworked with refugee spin
About 10 years ago, during a time when Scandinavians had opened their national boundaries to refugees from the Middle East in an exemplary fashion, Vahid Evazzadeh, an Iranian filmmaker and playwright, moved to Europe. After studying drama and choosing Denmark as his base, Evazzadeh continued running his experimental theatrical group Goossun Art-illery, which he had founded in Iran not long before leaving his homeland. The dimension of Europe that he ended up confronting was not exactly what he had had in mind but the experience has added a new dimension to Evazzadeh’s work. Combining techniques stemming from the theater art of the Western world with Zar, a purification ritual from the Middle East, Evazzadeh has created a performance titled «Hamlet Zar.» The project is not just the Iranian’s interpretation of «Hamlet» but is chiefly a work about emigration that has been staged throughout Europe. Right after Easter, Evazzadeh will be in Athens, at the Kinitiras Studio, to present this project and work with Greek actors, dancers and performers. At a time when immigration policy is a prime concern for European countries, Evazzadeh, who advocates human rights through his work, is blatant about his thoughts on the matter. The Iranian expatriate spoke to Kathimerini ahead of his visit to Athens. Would you like to share with us your own experiences as a migrant? I left Iran to come to Europe in 2001 with the aim of deepening my exploration in art as a performer and also to be able to work in an environment without the social and artistic restrictions I felt in my country. When I arrived in so-called «free» Europe, I faced many restrictions because I was a foreigner. The process of adjustment to my new environment, which was very different from what I had expected, influenced my thinking considerably. Since then, all my work has dealt with the issue of immigration either directly or indirectly, which led to the «Hamlet Zar» project. How do you combine two different cultures and theatrical techniques, those of Elizabethan theater and the rituals of the Middle East? The combination of Zar and Hamlet began as an idea for a performance, a version of «Hamlet» placed within a ritual. As such, the ritual functions as a dramaturgical tool and we see aspects from the story of Hamlet through the spirits that are summoned. The entire performance takes place at sea, when Hamlet is sent back to England to be executed. In Shakespeare’s version, he kills his false friends and returns to Denmark on a pirate ship, which, in our version, is a ship carrying illegal immigrants, a group of illegal immigrants, who, betrayed by their traffickers, are lost in the middle of sea and run into a sick man called Hamlet. They carry out a Zar ritual to cure him and subsequently various spirits are released from his body, which happen to be none other than the play’s characters. What is your opinion about the problems being confronted by immigrants and also the policies being implemented by governments? The situation we’re confronting in Europe, especially in cases where asylum is being sought, is complicated. On the one hand, we have the widespread and dominant anti-immigration policies making their appearance in Europe at various levels. The politicians and intellectuals who, guided by humanitarian or economic theories, support the need for Europe to accept refugees, are a minority. Although the matter of immigration needs to be researched individually by countries, it also needs to be examined at a wider level and confronted globally, for two main reasons. First, all the signs indicate a greater rise in immigration in the decades to come. No matter what decisions are made by European countries on immigration control, modern Europe’s fundamental system of values will be tested. People who migrate from poor to rich countries believe that they are striving for what they have been deprived of. This is not taken into consideration by the makers of immigration policy. On the contrary, politicians try to make an immigrant’s life more difficult. If deeper matters that force populations of the world to put their lives at risk to make it to Europe -such as poverty, corruption, and dictatorships – are not confronted, the dream to stop this mass movement of people will end up being a nightmare for all of us.