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Backgammon for Beginners at The Courtyard
2:27pm Friday 11th May 2012 in Leisure
A young man arrives from Iran in 1974, or was it 75? Maybe 76? The only thing that’s certain is that he arrived with a single suitcase and a backgammon board.
From this point, the story told in breathtaking acrobatics, music and words by SoandSo Circus becomes hazy. There is no certain narrative for the audience to hold on to as relationships in all their complexity are played out in elegant yet intricate acrobatic moves by Kaveh Rahnama and Lauren Hendry, and truths, half-truths and downright lies – women in Iran may only swim wrapped up in many metres of black cloth, not helpful for front crawl – emerge.
Inspired by the anecdotes told to him by his father, Kaveh and co-creator Lauren have made a piece of work, directed by Mish Weaver, that is both mesmerising and confusing, the audience challenged to find their own truth in it.
In the west, stories begin ‘once upon a time’, words that carry an implicit certainty. Backgammon for Beginners, begins as Iranian stories do, with the words, ‘There once was someone, there once wasn’t someone,’ – was there, or wasn’t there? Telling, as it does, the ‘story’ of Kaveh’s father, we can be certain there once was someone, but what happened after he landed on British soil – did he take a tube, did he take a taxi, did he live with his sister or in a bedsit where he could touch all four walls when sitting on his bed – is lost in a history woven from anecdotes and hidden truths.
The set, created as a giant backgammon board served to underline a life apparently lived on the throw of a dice, with as many possible outcomes as a single throw might generate on the board. The live music provided by Roshi Nasehi added a further dimension, a commentary rather than a soundtrack, to the piece.
Beautiful and thought-provoking, Backgammon for Beginners works on both a personal and a universal level. It may tell the story of Kaveh’s father, though it may not, but in a broader sense, it asks big questions about the unreliability of memory and the spin, big or small, that we all put on the truth.