The British Council’s biennial Edinburgh Showcase is the biggest opportunity for UK theatre companies to introduce their work to international promoters. Sasan Pirouz, an independent producer and the organiser of Monoleev Festival in Iran, is the only representative of Iranian independent theatre at the 2015 edition of the Showcase.
In between all our rushing from one show to another and one meeting to the next, I manage to briefly speak to him about the Showcase and his opinions on the outcomes of the presence of Iranian delegates in this programme.
Tara Fatehi Irani
What do you think of the Fringe and Edinburgh Showcase so far?
The Fringe and the Showcase are great opportunities for theatre artists from around the world to gather around and make close connections. Artists mostly have mediate connections with each other. Either through critics and media or through watching each other’s works as spectators. The Fringe and specially the Showcase create platforms where artists can make deeper and more personal connections. At the Showcase, things are not finished and ready to be consumed and the participants can talk about collaborations and the future rather than being mere consumers. This is what distinguishes the Showcase from when people only see or read about each other’s works.
What are your thoughts on the presence of Iranian delegates in this project? What are the outcomes of these connections for both sides?
The great thing about this programme was that delegates from both state and private theatres in Iran were invited. The presence of state managers and organisers of state festivals is really important because they are the ones who facilitate the connections—especially the new government in Iran has such an approach towards making new connections. Private and independent theatre in Iran is also turning into a strong trend that seems to shape the future of Iranian theatre. In my opinion, these two sectors are moving forward alongside each other although their paths may slightly differ. The Fringe and specially the Showcase are great opportunities for those who want to start a connection with Iran. They can see delegates from both sectors and rest assured that they are starting a connection that has both an artistic edge and a political and state support. This is a great opportunity specially under the recently formed political landscape and the current efforts in building trust.
What are your own plan and goals whilst you are at the Showcase? Have you seen any shows that can potentially be shown in Iran?
I am here with two specific goals: one as a delegate of the independent theatre movement in Iran so that anyone wanting to get in touch with this movement can speak to its actual representative. And two to find performances that can potentially be taken to Iran and presented at Monoleev festival which focuses on monologues and monodramas.
In Iran there is a high level of expectancy from European performances in terms of quality and the costs of bringing these shows to Iran are also very high. These are issues that make our decision making more difficult. Many shows might be well-suited to be shown in their countries of origin but may not be well-received in Iran. Same as many Iranian performances that work well in Iran but will not have the same success if you want to present them in international markets or in the UK for instance. Therefore, this is a mutual concern for both sides. Nonetheless, the festival has not yet finished and we are still seeing more shows. I hope that the new connections in the Showcase and the Fringe will lead to an artistic exchange and that we will see strong performances that we can hopefully host in Iran.
What do you think about the shows chosen by the British Council as part of the Showcase and the outcomes of showcasing these works?
The Showcase has been formed around specific goals and the organisers certainly have particular criteria and values for choosing the shows. Sometimes the outcomes of such a programme are not necessarily suitable for being shown in other countries. Perhaps the outcome is to support British talents who might flourish in the future. International delegates can also facilitate this path to flourishing these talents or meet these artists and follow their future works in case they can collaborate on future projects.
Due to the cultural nature of the Showcase, we should not expect any immediate and short-term results from it. Cultural initiatives and ideas tend to produce medium term outcomes, therefore we should give some time before judging the results of the Showcase. I think the main outcomes will manifest themselves in a timescale of two or three years and then we will see what these connections led to.
Perhaps a suggestion for future Edinburgh Showcases is to create a small section for presenting international performances alongside the British ones. We meet several producers and artists from around the world at the Showcase but there is no space for seeing examples of their works. Perhaps this network of international artists and organisers can be part of the production and development of the Showcase and help in making it more interesting rather than being only an audience. Of course, I am not sure if such a proposition is in line with the cultural strategies of this programme and the UK in general but perhaps such an addition would further enhance the Showcase.