Review By Helena Parker
A young woman is locked in a bedroom by a married couple that purport to be her parents, they tell her she is their daughter, Veronica, but she has no memory of this. She believes herself to be a woman called Susan, from America. What follows is a tense, often shifting psychological thriller directed very confidently by Ehsan Aliverdi. As an audience we are forced continuously to keep guessing, to remain on uncertain ground. Are we watching the tormented struggles of a mentally unstable woman unable to confront herself, or the doomed capture of a gaslit woman? This new production of Ira Levin’s play, performed entirely in Farsi with English subtitles demonstrated a unique take on the piece from the migrant artist collective, Nomad Theatre Group.
Director Aliverdi along with set designer Salar Hosseini created a suitably claustrophobic environment for the loaded exchanges that would colour the play. The walls were covered in wallpaper, and the bed surrounded by stacks of books and a jigsaw - markers of a trapped woman seeking diversions. However this simple set soon revealed its cleverness, with hidden openings and revolving walls that aided the theatricality of the play and made the psychological state of the protagonist come alive. Videos and graphics by Farid Masjedi and Sara Alizadeh were a brilliant choice and an interesting touch, as they lit up the back walls and drew us further into this room of madness.
At the helm were a quartet of impressive performances that really kept up the momentum of the play until the final moments. Parisa Mansuri was electric as the titular character ‘Veronica/Susan’, keeping us guessing at every turn as to her true identity. A tricky role (a lot of upset and panic to maintain) but she brought nuance and weight to the character. Also impressive were the two men in the piece Arash Salehi and Hamad Masteri who were seamless in their transitions in character. Special mention should go to Shiva Mokri who was fabulous in her various characters. Mokri commanded the stage and, like all the actors in the production, was able to seamlessly switch between characters whilst maintaining believability.
Veronica’s Room is a strong piece and should be commended for bringing a must needed new perspective to the Sydney theatre scene and showcasing the talents of migrant artists in Australia. Aliverdi has created a strong production, although at times the writing and direction can feel a little clunky. The script itself is an exciting thriller, but a little hard to believe. The ending itself almost made me want to laugh out loud at the absurdity of it - and the logic behind it is never quite clear enough, although this comes down to Levin’s script. Certain choices by Aliverdi, such as interrupting scenes with a light change and a direct address to the audience by the actors slowed the pace of the play and could have been handled more elegantly. Levin’s play is a difficult one but despite this the production mostly managed to make it work.
Overall Veronica’s Room is an exciting production, despite some small flaws and is valuable in bringing more cultural diversity to the Sydney scene. It was a treat to hear a whole play in Farsi and I hope Nomad Theatre Group has more works to come for us in the future.
All opinions and thoughts expressed within reviews on Theatre Travels are those of the writer and not of the company at large.