Siyâvash and Hippolytus: The Process of Creating an Intercultural Adaptation

Author: Houman Zandi Zadeh

Zandi Zadeh, Houman, 2017 Siyâvash and Hippolytus: The Process of Creating an Intercultural Adaptation, Flinders University, School of Humanities and Creative Arts

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This PhD project starts with two questions: firstly, what is the task of the intercultural theatre practitioner, and secondly, how do I adapt an Iranian myth for an Australian audience? I explore current refugee movements, Australia’s treatment of refugees (with a focus on sea arrivals), Iran’s status as a host as well as a source country of refugees, and racism. I then provide a background to intercultural theatre and present my personal definition of it. I begin with the definition of intercultural practice outlined in Julie Holledge and Joanne Tompkins’ Women’s Intercultural Performance (2000): intercultural theatre is ‘the meeting in the moment of performance of two or more cultural traditions, a temporary fusing of styles and/or techniques and/or cultures’. I also explore the concept of intercultural theatre developed by Ric Knowles in his Theatre & Interculturalism (2010) and Rustom Bharucha’s articulation of the problems with the term in The Politics of Cultural Practice (2001). Knowles offers the following definition: ‘bridging cultures via performance to establish productive dialogue amongst them’. Bharucha criticises exemplifying ‘a particular kind of Western representation which negates the non-Western context of its borrowing’. His extensive criticism of Peter Brook’s intercultural theatre, provides a framework for considering the task of the intercultural playwright. I arrive at a position whereby I define the task of an intercultural practitioner as ‘to fight racism’. I examine the works of three significant Iranian adapters of the Siyâvash story, my chosen material – Siyâvash-Khâni by Bahram Beyzai, Mourning for Siyâvash by Pari Saberi, and The Welkin’s Horses Rain Ashes by Naghmeh Samini. I then track how studying and living in Australia changed my view on adaptation. I add two British case studies: one of poet and translator/adapter Ted Hughes and one of playwright Sarah Kane. Both have adapted the Hippolytus myth, which is similar to the Siyâvash story. These case studies broaden my view of adaptation and translation. I then consider writing for an Australian audience, through writing my own intercultural adaptation. I am influenced by analyses of migration and racism, my own experience of migration, and Jane Elliott’s education exercise in which children are exposed to racism. The exegesis accompanying the final play charts this journey. My intercultural play, Phaedra in Persia, combines characters from both the Persian and Greek stories of a Prince who is loved by his stepmother. My focus is on the Prince’s journey from disaffection towards compassion. This personal journey is set against a political allegory of Australia’s response to refugees and Middle Eastern migrants. Elliott’s exercise shaped my approach to intercultural adaptation. I use her idea of reverse racism as a ploy in my allegory. The play situates the audience, whether displaced migrants or citizens of their host countries, in the reverse situation to the one they currently inhabit. I aim to use this method to provide audiences with a better understanding of the subject of migration and the refugee crisis.

Keywords: Iranian theatre, Hippolytus, Siyavash, adaptation, intercultural theatre, migration, racism

Subject: Humanities thesis, Creative Arts thesis

Thesis type: Doctor of Philosophy
Completed: 2017
School: School of Humanities and Creative Arts
Supervisor: Dr Anne Thompson