Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World - NSW
The Javaad Alipoor Company & National Theatre of Parramatta
Reviewed by Tessa Miles
Sydney Opera House, Drama Theatre
Playing until January 21st 2024
Examining the implications of the digital age, the work combines storytelling, history and technology in this immersive multi-media murder mystery
Riverside’s National Theatre of Parramatta has joined forces with the UK-based theatre makers, The Javaad Alipoor Company, to present Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World – a cutting-edge multi-media theatre piece that leaves audiences enthralled at the Sydney Opera House as part of the 2024 program for the Sydney Festival.
Co-written by Javaad Alipoor and Chris Thorpe, this ultramodern production is a deep dive into the nature of investigation. Alipoor, who also directs and narrates, dubs the show a “multimedia murder mystery” blending audio visuals, live music, thought provoking storytelling, and everyone’s favourite method of receiving their murder mysteries, podcasting.
At the centre of the production is the unsolved murder of Iranian pop icon Fereydoun Farrokhzad. Alipoor describes Farrokhzad as the Persian Tom Jones, giving western audiences a comparison to draw from as it is almost guaranteed most of the audience would not know who Farrokhzad was. Farrokhzad, the Iranian sensation, was brutally murdered in 1992 while in political exile in Germany. His murder remains unsolved, with the production, through Asha Reid as podcast host (both on video and in person, and sometimes both at the same time), explores who the suspects are which include the rumoured male lover and the Iranian Government. Reid’s commentary though podcast medium, adds an engaging layer to an already multi-layered and intricate production.
Photos by Chris Payne
Adding a contemporary layer to this narrative is the real-life experience of musician and podcaster Raam Emami aka King Raam, whose music and personal story are interwoven into the performance. Raam is accompanied by musician Me-Lee Hay, both adding a soundtrack to a thought-provoking production.
Alipoor sheds light on the broader implications of Farrokhzad's story, stating, “When I started researching the story of Fereydoun Farrokhzad, I came to realize that his murder is the beginning of a series of events that still haunt us today". Alipoor goes on to highlight the shifting dynamics between the Global North and South, exploring how escaping dictatorship doesn't guarantee safety in the West.
With a stellar creative team, including set, costume, and lighting design by Ben Brockman, music by Raam Emami, sound design by Simon McCorry, and projection/video design by Limbic Cinema, Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is a thought-provoking and visually striking highlight of the 2024 Sydney Festival.
The production fractures the audience’s attention, skilfully utilising an overload of facts, music, narration, and projected images to mirror the distracted experience of being online. The seamless integration of these elements not only immerses the audience in the intricate murder mystery but also sheds light on the fractured nature of modern attention spans.
Taking it a step further, the production exposes the seemingly neutral structure of the internet itself. It delves into the illusion of instant knowledge, unravelling how these aspects preserve colonial power dynamics. The narrative invites the audience to reflect on the implications of the digital age, questioning the neutrality of the tools we use and how they contribute to societal imbalance and influence our thinking.
As we navigate the multimedia landscape of Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, we are prompted to consider not only the mysteries on stage but also the hidden layers of influence embedded in our online interactions. This thought-provoking exploration adds yet another layer of complexity to a performance already rich in its examination of politics, history, and technology.
Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World is an extremely riveting piece of theatre that provokes the senses, and challenges our thoughts and beliefs by blending storytelling, history and technology. It is an unforgettable experience and a great addition to the already rich Sydney Festival line up.
CAST AND CREATIVES
Written by Javaad Alipoor with Chris Thorpe
Co-created by Natalie Diddams and Javaad Alipoor
Dramaturg Chris Thorpe
Directed by Javaad Alipoor
Performed by Javaad Alipoor and Asha Reid with Raam Emami, together with on-stage musician Me-Lee Hay
Set, costume and lighting design by Benjamin Brockman
Composer, music director, live musician Me-Lee Hay
With music by Raam Emami
Sound design by Simon McCorry
Projection and video design by Limbic Cinema
Additional filming by Tate Creations
AUS production management by PaperJam Partners
UK Production management by The Production Family: Dom Baker and Tom Mackey
Company stage manager Dylan Tate
Sound specialist Mike Kingsley