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Taste me. Photo: Le Phenix.
Articles, Volume 9

Gurshad Shaheman, a modern day Scheherazade, teller of fascinating tales that hold our attention and leave us wanting more

Gurshad Shaheman, a modern day Scheherazade
By Philippa Wehle 
Arab Stages, Volume 9 (Fall, 2018) 
©2018 by Martin E. Segal Theatre Center Publications

Gurshad Shaheman, French-Iranian playwright, performer, and translator is one of the most fascinating voices on the French contemporary theater scene today. His latest play Il pourra toujours dire que c’est pour l’amour du prophète (He can always say that it is for the Love of the Prophet) premiered at the Avignon Festival on July 11, 2018. The critic at Les Inrockuptibles, the well-known edgy French magazine, called this piece the most beautiful show of the 72nd festival and indeed it was in my view as well.

The show’s title alone was sufficient to draw my attention to this play. I had been introduced to Gurshad’s work at the Festival transamériques in Montreal in May and I was looking forward to seeing his new piece. The stage is in the dark. A mysterious halo of light beckons the audience to lean into what appears to be a cavernous space in hopes of seeing what is happening there. A spotlight comes up on a young person stage front. She is sitting on the floor. Her eyes are closed. With microphone in hand, she begins to tell a story about her parents, a Syrian father and a Lebanese mother. How they met in Canada and fell in love but did not marry when she became pregnant. Before long we hear another voice and then another and another, each telling different stories, superimposed on each other and accompanied by Lucien Gaudion’s electro-acoustic score that creates a “labyrinth of sounds.” Lights come up slowly on a stage filled with other young people. Some are lying down, others are seated on chairs, others kneeling, some with their backs to the audience and others standing. The yellows, reds, white, blues and black of their outfits create a kaleidoscope of colors each bathed in pools of light.

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