Imagine pitching up to the new Storyhouse theatre in Chester when it opens at the end of the year and knowing that the play you are about to see has been officially approved by David Cameron, the Christmas play at St Mary's Creative Space is just what CWAC ordered and Chester Operatic Society 's latest offering has been given the thumbs up by the Lord Mayor .
This is effectively what Iranian Feast author Kevin Dyer, of Action Transport Theatre fame, and director Gavin Stride experienced when they visited Tehran five years ago to run a series of workshops at the Fadjr festival. Theatre work there had to be sanctioned and can only be presented in theatres owned and managed by the state, with a government official sitting in on rehearsal with the authority to censor or stop a particular performance.
And so Iranian Feast, a contemporary play for village halls by Farnham Maltings Theatre Company, was born.
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So we take our seats at tables laid with beautiful tablecloths and become, at once, guests at an Iranian family event. We aren't sure what event it is but we have all been invited to join Abbas, his wife Maryam and daughter Eli in a celebration of some kind. Someone is asked to pour the tea, another is requested politely to act as waiter and we all relax as tales are told of childbirth in the back of a Renault in the desert and the difficulties with teenage girls.
The production is presented in traverse with the action taking place in the aisle created between the two sets of tables.
Abbas (Mick Strobel) has something on his mind as he works the room, welcoming old friends, and Maryam fusses over the preparation of her Aash-e Reshte - legume, herb and noodle soup - which fills the space with a delicious, mouth watering aroma. Eli would rather be at her friend Diana's house and humphs when asked to go to the shop for extra supplies for the 83 guests who have turned up (a sell-out with extra seats put out at the last minute).
Issues we all recognise from our own lives. Until there are things we don't. A blue Peugeot parked outside with two strange men inside, a camera watching you at work, everything in sevens so that there is always an odd one out and rules that mean you can't enjoy a day at the beach with your boyfriend or girlfriend.
The production lasts only an hour and a half with no interval and includes a taster of the delicious soup - although my gluten free diet meant I had to abstain. Guests at my table confirmed its tastiness and I was delighted to see the recipe printed in the programme, so can attempt a GF version at home at my leisure. But no one left straight afterwards - like any good party, people hung around to chat - our table debated when the action was set and agreed that it could have been post-revolution in the 1980s or yesterday.
Iranian Feast was much more than food - it was a thought provoking snapshot of family life under a very different regime.
So when Storyhouse opens, or when you look at the schedule for what's coming up at St Mary's Creative Space, or Chester Little Theatre , or Chester Cathedral , or Action Transport Theatre, or at your local village hall, remember that no one will stop you going. With all the restrictions in Iran Dyer and Stride witnessed in Tehran theatres brim full of audiences with people sitting on every step and children hoisted onto laps.
Make sure we do the same in our free society.
Iranian Feast is at Mollington and Backford Village Hall on Sunday, April 10 at 7.30pm (tickets from 01244 851045).