“I feel it. I feel that rage and that violence and that pain, and then I go out in the street here, and they’re all oblivious.”
Sister Radio, written by Sara Shaarawi, delicately weaves the decades long story of two sisters, born in Tehran but living in Edinburgh. A story of displacement, family and betrayal, the play focuses on sisters, Shirin and Fatemeh, whose father, in 1970, insists they leave Iran to receive a British education. Two timelines take place, almost on top of one another: their first year of living together in the 70’s, and 43 years later, in 2020 lockdown. And although the entirety of the play takes place in the living room, there is a sense of the flat holding more than just their two lives within it. Memories seem to seep through the radio as the two sisters co-exist, both with each other and with their earlier, 1970’s version of themselves, and it is within this liminality that the heart of this play, and these sisters’ story, exists.
Lanna Joffrey’s portrayal of Fatemeh, the older of the two sisters, is heartbreakingly honest whilst Nalân Burgess captures Shirin’s youthful and revolutionary spirit effortlessly. These two actors successfully anchor the audience with their powerful performances as we are swept into the ephemeral entanglements of their world. Caitlin Skinner’s direction successfully sifts through these entanglements, creating a sense of fluidity between timelines whilst still creating a sense that these two characters are stuck, both in a here and a there, in a now and a before. It is that feeling of being in both a here and a there, in a now and a before, that I recognize as a cornerstone of my own experience of being an immigrant living in Edinburgh.
It’s impossible to watch a play depicting Iranian sisters and not be thinking of the women and girls currently fighting for their freedoms in Iran, right this very second. In an impassioned speech following the first round of applause, Joffrey and Burgess reminded the audience that while we are sitting comfortably in Traverse 2, being wrapped in the arms of a fictional tale, there are still raging protests for women’s freedoms and very real, very violent lengths being taken to keep women silent, and obedient. Sister Radio may be a family drama, but its political poignancy, especially being from an all women team, rings true beyond the walls of their staged shared flat, beyond the doors of the Traverse and beyond the borders of Scotland.
Woman. Life. Freedom.
Zan. Zendegi. Azadi.
Sister Radio.: 10th-12th Nov, The Traverse Theatre, 20:00
Image photographed by Fraser Band, provided to The Student via Press Release.