Murder Mystery Podcast Meets Multi-Media At UMS

How do we make sense of a world as diverse and complicated as ours is, in a cultural and political moment as complicated as this one? Javaad Alipoor will be entering the stage of the Arthur Miller Theater at 7:30 p.m. on Nov 15 to 18 to try to answer just that with Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World.

“There are a lot of big questions in the world right now,” Alipoor said in a recent interview with Current. He and his team are making this show because “there are big, international questions right now of politics that we’re all aware of and need to think about how we’re going to move through. I think what theater is great at, and no other medium can do, is hold a space where we can think of that stuff, really feel that stuff in a way that has lightness, comedy, and even a sense of moving through things together. It’s something that really gets its hands on some quite vital questions, but does it in a way that also gives you a really entertaining 90 minutes.”

The show uses theatrical themes along with the podcasting format to create an immersive experience. Alipoor describes his company as tackling very complicated, knotty subjects with humor and theatricality to create a more nuanced conversation than might be possible with mediums other than the theater.

Alipoor hails from Bradford, a mostly working class rust belt city in Northern England, with a large and diverse cross-section of recent and recent-ish immigrants from what Alipoor described to Current as being from places that were “on the wrong side of the British empire.” Alipoor’s show was co-created with Natalie Diddams, co-written with Chris Thrope. Ben Brockman designed the show and AV support comes from Limbic Cinema and Me-Lee Hay provides the music. It is a diverse group of workers with ancestry from around the world that.

“Part of the show is definitely a bit like a quite funny, surreal mashup of the murder mystery podcast genre … along with the famous British sense of humor. There’s also a lot of live music in the show, a lot of which comes out of Middle Eastern pop music, which is a lot of funk, funky and can be quite psychedelic. Then there’s another part of the show which is kind of like a deep dive documentary,” Alipoor said.

Javad Alipoor. Image Credit: Chris Payne
Javad Alipoor. Photo by Chris Payne.

Alipoor and his theater company combine the oft-trodden world of the murder mystery podcast with the interactive and immersive possibilities of multimedia performances. It received rave reviews at the Edinburgh Fringe last year.

The Guardian’s Catherine Love called Alipoor’s collaboration with his supporting company as a group that “have the skill of turning mind-stretching ideas into theatrically thrilling [a] performance.”

With this current show, Alipoor is harnessing his personal heritage (he comes from a mixed British and Iranian family) and his collaborators delve into the real-life murder of Fereydoun Farrokhzad an Iranian pop star whom Alipoor describes as the Iranian Tom Jones. Farrokhzad’s life was turned upside down with the Iranian Revolution that overthrew the Shah in 1979.

Farrokhzad ended up in Germany as a refugee for over a decade. He was murdered in Bonn in 1992, a case which has never been solved by German police.

“It’s a story that I’ve wanted to explore for a number of years because I am interested in the intersection between technology and political culture,” Alipoor said. “Every time I tell someone about this story, everyone wants to do is search Wikipedia about him or listen to a mystery podcast about him.”

Javad Alipoor. Image Credit: Chris Payne
Javad Alipoor. Photo by Chris Payne.

“Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World” is the third of three shows that Alipoor has done with his production team, the others being 2017’s The Believers Are But Brothers, which delved into “Masculinity, online radicalization and internet culture.” That first play was adapted by the BBC in 2019 after winning some awards. The second show was Rich Kids, a show about Instagram, rich Iranian youths, climate change, and the widening gap between the global rich and poor.

His company, the Javad Alipoor Company, has spent around a decade making art “that is about the complexity and challenges of living in the world. As a company, we are especially interested in thinking about how technological change leads to political change. We try and make that work in a way that is … compelling, funny, and really has as much heart as it has head.”

Tickets for the show from Wednesday through Saturday run from $35 plus fees for general admittance. Students’ prices range from $12 to $20 according to the UMS.

“One of the things this show is about is the feeling of too-muchness that we all live with, the feeling of oversaturation of everything,” Alipoor said. “In a way, what this show does is play with, undermine and arm you with a bunch of ways of thinking about that feeling that you’re getting form being on social media and watching the TV anyway.”

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