Feathers of Fire is an epic, beautiful spectacle, on stage in Toronto as part of the Nowruz Festival
When I came across the trailer for Feathers of Fire, on stage now at The Toronto Centre for the Arts, I decided immediately — without even checking my calendar — that I simply HAD to see it. True to its name, it did indeed look EPIC.
Going into a show with impossibly high expectations can be a recipe for disappointment. Despite the long trek with a bad knee, after a long day and a freezing cold night, I’m pleased to say that Feathers of Fire not only met, but far exceeded my expectations.
The trailer tells you to imagine “…Romeo and Juliet, Rapunzel, and The Jungle Book all in one story…”, and that’s fairly accurate. Feathers of Fire tells the story of Zaul, born of a great, though tragic, love. Left alone in the wilderness by his father (for reasons I’ll keep to myself), he was found and raised by a mythical bird, Simorgh.
Later, he falls in love with Rudabeh, and the star-crossed pair (again, so crossed for reasons I won’t reveal) eventually give birth to Rostam, the main figure in the Shahnameh — or the Persian Book of Kings.
I’ve never read the Persian Book of Kings, nor had I even heard of it before this week. Because I’m not comparing Feathers of Fire to the original epic, I may have a different take than someone who’s familiar with Ferdowsi’s original. To me, the story was charming, seductive (in a G rated way, as this is very much a family friendly show), very funny, and just the right length.
What struck me more than the story, however, was the art. Feathers of Fire is a marvel of shadow puppetry which relies on masterful timing, dual projections (of both light and video backgrounds), and over 160 puppets (handcrafted by Neda Kazemifar and Spicca Wobbe).
Helmed by creator and director Hamid Rahmanian, Feathers of Fire seamlessly transitions from a mythical bird flying into the mountains to the inner walls of a palace. With the supremely talented cast and crew working in perfect harmony, we’re transported to dragon infested seas, to the hills of ancient Kabul, to rooftops, and to gardens.
The visuals were amazing, and my companion Ziggy and I were in agreement that they were the highlight of the show. Partly because I’d seen a short behind-the-scenes trailer of how the show is made, and perhaps partly because I’m a visual artist myself, I had such a deep appreciation for the level of detail, the colours, and the consistency of all of the elements, from the puppets to the backgrounds.
This show features a rich, magical, original musical score—which consists largely of traditional Persian instruments—that only intensifies the drama.
I’ve never seen a show like Feathers of Fire before. The backstage wizardry required to make a show like this run is impressive on its own, but the artistry makes it exceptional. At one point early on, I was so moved by how stunningly beautiful everything was that I was overcome with emotion.
If you love beautiful stories and art, get yourself to The Toronto Centre for the Arts and see Feathers of Fire. It’s on as part of the weekend-long Nowruz Festival (which marks the Persian new year), so you can catch some other fun, free events before the show.
Image provided by the company.