Danger to writer refuted

HANNAH HERCHENBACH
Last updated 05:00 22/03/2014

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The Iranian Embassy rejects Court Theatre claims that reviews of an upcoming play could "quite literally" endanger the life of its Iranian playwright.

The Court issued invitations for Nassim Soleimanpour's White Rabbit Red Rabbit, which opens today, with a warning: "Urgent: All media and press agents have to keep in mind that the playwright lives in Iran. This play is not overtly political, and should not be portrayed as such. It operates on a deeper, metaphorical level . . . Any allusions to it being anti-government could, quite literally, endanger the playwright's life."

But an Embassy of Iran spokesman in Wellington said criticism "is very normal in Iran.' "We have thousands of newspapers every day criticising political issues."

Soleimanpour wrote the 2010 play in Iran when he was barred from holding a passport after refusing to do national service. It debuted at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011 and has been performed around the world and translated into several languages.

Court Theatre associate director Melanie Camp said issuing the warning was part of the contract from Berlin company Aurora Nova Productions, which owned the rights to the play.

University of Canterbury political science honours student Karim Pourhamvazi, who grew up in Iran, is also sceptical.

"People are not dying for writing plays in Iran," he said. "The media is controlled in Iran, but still you can speak to many directors, moviemakers and playwrights who work in Iran and criticise the government."

Pourhamvazi said the play had been reviewed by several Iranian websites, including the state's official theatre website. The playwright said in a recent interview that three Iranian newspapers were interested in publishing it.

"He did not seem to me someone who has security concern about this play whatsoever."

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- The Press

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