Theatre review: Dorr-e-Dari

Stories about love from Afghan-Australian hosts.

Dorr-e Dari, a medley of poetry, drama and dance, is an invitation to tune into the thousand-year language of love as perfected by Persian mystical poets such as Rumi and Hafez.

There is a lovely, intimate ambience to the evening as we are welcomed into three lively stories of love and romance, performed by Mahdi Mohammadi, Jawad Yaqoubi and Hasiba Ebrahimi.

As we enter the auditorium, the artists are taking tea with First Nations Elder Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor. What unfolds is one of the most touching Welcome to Country ceremonies I’ve witnessed, as Dixon-Grovenor tells audiences of the importance of holding our loved ones closely, for the continuation of ancestral reverence and love.

This sets the scene for a ‘crash course in love’ expressing the complexity and beauty of that most ineffable, most human of yearnings. 

The first scene opens with a FaceTime projection of writer Jalal Nazari reciting mystical poetry in real time. This livestreaming is arresting, speaking to the genuine connection and sharing of love, the transgressing of borders and time zones, love illimitable and inspiring.

From there, three personal stories of the many iterations of love and affection unfold; from familial, to romantic and everything in between. The soliloquies are animated and entertaining, punctuated with dance, singing and live music. The audience is folded into the story in innovative ways.

Much of the of the performance is recited in Dari which is seamlessly translated into English, making this an inclusive, welcoming experience regardless of native language. 

In one of the most provocative sections of the work, it is stated that ‘translation can be an act of love or betrayal’ – a reference to the white-washed colonial translations of exquisite poetry by Rumi and Hafez by James Atkinson, who is exposed as a murderous coloniser as well as untruthful translator who secularised and trivialised these beautiful, epic poems from Iran and Afghanistan.

All the while, Ebrahimi reminds us that these works are ‘a literature without borders’, seeking to console the human desires of us all, for love and belonging. 

Read: Book review: The Brink, Holden Sheppard

After many alluring readings of the poetry and humbling recounts of each of the artists’ experiences of the bewildering power of love, we are implored to ‘do everything with love’ and place these ‘pearls’ of wisdom and solace in our hearts.

The overall effect of this performance, universal in its reach, is a sense of effusive joy and comfort. A ‘feel good’ night with a soul-replenishing aspect for certain. 

Dorr-e Dari: A Poetic Crash Course in the Language of Love
Arts Centre Melbourne
Director: Paul Dwyer
Video Artist: Sean Bacon
Lighting Designer/Production Manager: Neil Simpson
Dramaturg: Bernadette Fam
Stage Manager: Olivia Xegas
Producer: PYT Fairfield

First Nations Elder: Aunty Rhonda Dixon-Grovenor
Concept/Co-Creator/Performer: Mahdi Mohammadi

Co-Creator/Performer: Jawad Yaqoubi
Co-Creator: Bibi Goul Mossavi

Co-Creator/Performer: Hasiba Ebrahimi
Guest Artist: Jalal Nazari

Dorr-e Dari was performed from 2-3 September 2022

Leila Lois is a dancer and writer of Kurdish and Celtic heritage. Her poetry, essays and reviews have been published in Australia, New Zealand, USA and Canada by Southerly Journal, LA Review of Books, Honey Literary Journal, Right Now, Delving Into Dance and more.