Review: Citizen

3 star rating
Iranians, who have found themselves dispersed around the world, provide affecting stories about dual heritage in a thoughtfully reflective and ably acted piece. Well-worth seeing.
Citizen at The Space

Image: The Space

Theatre: The Space

Closes here: Saturday 5 May 2018

Sepy Baghaei & the company



Nalân Burgess

David Djemal


A British mother is arrested whilst visiting family overseas with her baby daughter.

A family of political refugees are moving to Australia to start a new life.

American citizens, working, travelling, and holidaying around the world, fall victim to Trump's executive order against 7 Muslim countries, and can't return home.

They are all human.

They are all Iranian.

Their only crime: their ethnicity.


Drawing on interviews with Iranian migrants, award winning company Suitcase Civilians return to the Space with CITIZEN, directed by Sepy Baghaei (nominated for Best New Talent at Short+Sweet Sydney 2012); a powerful new production exploring the blurry line between our identities as humans and ethnic types, and when we stop being seen as one or the other.

ActDrop reviews

Peter Brown

Performance date: Thursday 26 April 2018
Review star rating image for 3 stars

This is a play that considers 'dual heritage' which can apply to numerous situations, for example when a person has been born in one country, but lives in a different one, or perhaps when someone's parents are from a different country to the one where the family resides.

Migration can leave people in a strange situation where their cultural heritage is very different to that of the society they find themselves living in.

And that can leave people questioning what 'homeland', residency and citizenship really mean.

Citizen turns out to be a series of vignettes drawn from interviews and discussions with Iranians from around the world.

Though the focus here is specifically on Iranians who have found themselves dispersed to other countries, the play finds comparative and current relevance in the recent shocking treatment of the Windrush generation who, after almost a lifetime of work and residency in the UK, and who believed they were British citizens, have found themselves denied the right to work or access services they have contributed to, or to return after travelling abroad.

The varied stories we hear in Citizen are sometimes horrific and frightening like one from within a holding centre in Australia where a hard-line refugee policy seems not merely unjustly harsh and cruelly unsympathetic, but inhuman.

In another story, we hear how President Trump's ban on people from certain Muslim countries affected one young woman who, studying in the USA, could not return home to see her family.

But there's more to Citizen than anecdotes about harsh treatment of refugees or immigrants.

In a funny and well-worked scene, we hear about some aspects of social behaviour with the surprising revelation that an Iranian greeting means "I would like to eat your liver".

We also witness an example of Iranian traditional social courtesy in action when a visitor has to refuse offers of food three times before she can politely accept.

And we get to share in Iranian generosity when dates and tea are handed-out.

But some of the scenes are a nightmare world away from humorous cultural niceties as we find a sorrowful and despondent Iranian refugee longing for freedom, and a man arriving at work witnessing his office building bombed and his friends and colleagues killed.

A cast of three tell all the stories here, providing along the way some delicately sung and evocative songs.

Verbatim pieces can be wide-ranging in the experiences they illuminate, and this is the case here.

Sometimes it means the overall thread of the piece can start to become obscured or elusive, even though many of the scenes are immensely affecting, and the entire piece is thoughtfully reflective and potent, ably acted and executed, and, thus, well-worth seeing.

Citizen does encompass, though, a strong underlying sense that whatever our cultural or national origins, we citizens of the world have more binding us together than separating us - if only we have the common sense, goodwill and essential humanity to recognise it.

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