Javaad Alipoor’s newest show seeks - he tells us in a chatty, informal prologue - to solve the as-yet unsolved case of Iranian pop star Fereydoun Farrokhzad’s brutal murder in 1992. Haven’t heard of Farrokhzad? He’s basically the Iranian Tom Jones. Except, of course, he isn’t.
Alipoor is an engaging performer; he commands the stage singlehandedly with an ease that speaks to a natural affinity for showmanship. What begins as an explanation of Farrokhzad’s life - to provide the audience context before exploring the suspicious events surrounding his death - becomes a dissection of Wikipedia loops, knowledge gaps, and all the nations of the world where the height of fame is being compared to a famous person from somewhere else. From here, we are taken on a multimedia extravaganza, with pre-recorded videos, projections and live performances blending seamlessly to create a masterfully-woven narrative.
The show rides a delicate balance between shrewdly educational, darkly comical, and heavily poignant. Asha Reid’s seductively confident podcast host is irresistible; you believe every word she says, even when she tells you not to; even when she admits she has no basis for the claims she is making. Raam Emani (better known by his stage name, King Raam) delivers the story of his own experience as an Iranian musician with heartbreaking matter-of-factness, as well as accompanying much of the show musically alongside Me-Lee Hay.
It is the construction of the piece that makes it, in my mind, so successful. To sustain an audience’s attention so effortlessly, using such a varied range of storytelling devices, without any element feeling superfluous or conspicuous, is a testament to Alipoor’s skill as a writer and director. ‘The more you know, the more you understand’, the refrain of the show, is unsubtle in its disingenuity; by the end of the show, you won’t know exactly how or why Farrokhzad was murdered - despite Alipoor’s claims in the prologue, definitive answers remain elusive - but you will understand that knowledge isn’t all we’ve chalked it up to be.