Winter of 88 (Nowadays Theatre) 2020 Next Stage Review

Photo of actor in Winter of 88

Timely. Tragic. Powerful.

With the Iranian plane crash in the headlines and tense US-Iran relations in the news, I knew it was going to be a tough night with a timely work.

Winter of 88, presented by Nowadays Theatre and part of the Next Stage 2020 festival, follows the faces and families behind the eight-year war between Iran and Iraq from 1980 to 1988.

Winter of 88 follows the traumatic and long-lasting effects on the director and writer, Mohammad Yaghoubi, and his experiences during the Iran-Iraq war. The story follows a family in the midst of its crossfire. Contrasting their fictional story is the voice of the playwright, who is talking to his partner about her thoughts on his writing of the play.

The author and his partner are never seen. An audio recording plays of them speaking in Farsi, and an English translation is projected onto the stark black wall at the back of the stage. At times the couple express their personal experiences of the war, at others, they speak about the fictional choices for the family in the play and how they should portray the experience for the family.

The fictional family is made up of a mother, her two children and her daughter’s husband, who perform in English. The original play was performed in Farsi; however, it has been translated to English for this production. A few Farsi words remain in the text and are translated in the program.

This play is heartwarming and heartbreaking all at the same time. I quickly grew to love the characters. Through their bickering and all-to-familiar conversations, such as a mother talking to her daughter about how to “train your husband,” you are reminded of the situation that they live among. Loud explosions echo through the space. The explosions get louder through the play, as they get closer and closer to the family’s home.

The story shows the true cost of war. As mentioned through the text, the decisions of politicians and governments have powerful consequences on civilians and have lasting effects on survivors and their children.

David DeGrow’s lighting design is a fantastic addition to the compelling story. The cast uses flashlights and candles through the eerie setting. A unique use of lighting, and my favourite of the performance, comes from an onstage box, said to be a broken TV that emits a green diagonal wash across the stage. 

The work is perfectly cast, with every actor fully invested in their role. Each character seamlessly shifts between humourous moments to tragic and fearful scenes. The mother, Nasrin, played by Aida Keykhai, steals the show as she is able to encompass the perfect mix of wit and worry of a mother.

Following each presentation of the work is a talkback in which the audience is able to ask questions to the cast and playwright/director. The first comment in the talkback from the opening performance came from an audience member who experienced the war first hand. He and many other audience members thanked the cast for their powerful telling of the story and for bringing this painful rendition forward in such a critical time.

Thank you Nowadays Theatre for such an incredible and powerful work!

Details:

  • Next Stage Theatre Festival performances are being held at Factory Theatre (125 Bathurst St.)
  • Single tickets are $18 (tickets purchased online or by phone are subject to a $3 fee), Money-saving passes are also available. See website for ticketing information.
  • Showtimes on the Winter of 88 listing.

Photo by Tanja Tiziana.

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