16. January 2020

Odin Teatret will not be going to Iran in February

Odin Teatret will not be present with its performance The Chronic Life at the 38th International Fadjr Festival in Teheran in February 2020. Read Eugenio Barba’s letter to the Festival asking for its cancellation to honour the memory of the victims of the Ukrainian airplane.

Below Eugenio Barba's correspondance with Dr. Mehrdad Rayani-Makhsous (PhD. FIATC. FDAC. MATD) Principal lecturer, Theatre Critic, Dramatist & Director, Director of Research and Publication, Dramatic Arts Center of Iran 


From: Eugenio Barba
Sent: Tuesday, 14 January 2020 14.00

Dear Mehrdad

I write to you as a friend whose integrity I respect and which allows me to speak openly to you.

A few years ago you did your outmost to invite to Teheran The Tree, Odin Teatret’s first part of the “Trilogy of the Innocents”. The performance deals with the victims of prejudice, hate and war.  In February 2020 we should present the second part of this trilogy, The Chronic Life. I was looking forward to meeting you again, and to sharing this performance with friends and anonymous spectators who in your country had embraced us warmly.

But suddenly 176 innocents filled the sky of Teheran. Many, all over the world, felt grief and dread, also in your country. And we are a whole body together with the people in Iran expressing their pain for the victims. Pain burns within us in a blending of shame and wrath and a wish to rebel against the unjust destiny of the 176 lacerated bodies.

There is a time to enable exchange and diversity. Therefore theatre festivals exist. And there is a time for festivals to mourn and enable life to grow again. A poem by the Turkish poet Nazim Hikmet says:

Life is no laughing matter// Take it seriously as does a squirrel//without expecting anything from outside or from beyond.// Living must be your whole occupation.// Take life so seriously and to such a degree//that at seventy you will plant olive trees//not for your children//but because you will fight with death even fearing it./ And life will weigh more on the scale. 

Dear Merdhad,  please, cancel the Festival as a sign of mourning and pain. I know that ministers, powerful people and rational thinkers will consider this proposal preposterous. Convince them that life weighs more than death, that by revoking so many months of effort and expectation you are planting an olive tree. And it will bear fruits in the future, and many theatre people will join you to help pick them in your next Festival.  

In friendship,
Eugenio Barba

* Leggi la lettera in italiano qui
* Lea la carta en español aquí
* Læs ovenstående brev på dansk her


From: Mehrdad Rayani-Makhsous 
Sent: Wednesday, 15 January 2020 18.30

Dear Eugenio,

Thank you for your very thoughtful words. I appreciate you that you have given me such a tender feelings.

There is no doubt this circumstance has been hard and difficult for all Iranians; however each one of us have different reaction to this matter. Some react emotionally and some rationally.
First of all let us talk about the necessity of the theatre itself. What is the role of theatre in the society? What is the concept of YOUR performance? What is your perspective of life and war in YOUR performance? Obviously when we talk against the war so it means that life is important to us. Does the prophecy of your play to condemn the war? If so, the best performance to be presented in Iran is yours; right now.

The majority of performances, which are going to be presented at 38th Fadjr International Theatre Festival, have a serious and intellectual thought and concept. In fact, I believe that performing our common thoughts and deliver it to our people would be more effective than omission.

We are going to keep theatre alive to announce our thoughts: “No war in the world”. We are going to gather people together in order to make think and having intellectual communication. That is why you have been invited. This is our opportunity to make changes even a bit. Nevertheless I would not like you to do what you do not like or believe. It has been our request to meet you to take the advantage of your knowledge and experience as well as having a close collaboration.

We have had several meeting in different levels in order to make any changes the timetable of our festival. Various comments have been listened. The majority of people believe we have to continue because theatre has to be alive. As you know the theatre is an opposition to the government in the world so artists attempt to keep it alive. We decided not to react emotionally and keep this main area for people who are keen to talk, think, discuss and etc. The artists have worked for a year in order to show their works in these 10 days of Fadjr Theatre Festival, and we need to respect their endeavors. The majority of plays are NEW productions, and have performed in 32 states around Iran. In fact, there are 32 national festivals, and then some of them have been selected by boarder members in order to put in the 38th Fadjr Theatre Festival’s schedule. 32 national festivals are looking for Fadjr Theatre Festival and we should care about them. Now there are around 70 – 80 performances, inside and outside plays and we would not like to disappoint them.

Dear Eugenio
I am here to develop Iranian theatre and keep it alive as much as I can far from my family, because it is so crucial to me.
I received Anne’s cancellation letter which made me so upset. I would like you to reconsider your decision once again especially when your props and decorations are on their way and your group’s visas have been issued which I worked on it very hard. DAC is going to carry on the festival. I respect your decision; however, I would deeply love to meet you in Tehran.

My best wishes,


From: Eugenio Barba 
Sent: Wednesday, 15 January 2020 21:39

Dear Mehrdad

I can understand your arguments. Theatres should go on fighting with their specific weapons which, even in their most vehement artistic forms, are always pacific. History shows that their effects can cause silent transformations and discernible upheavals.

But there are situations of pain, mourning or refusal when theatres must abstain from performing. The cancellation of the Fadjr International Theatre Festival with its impressive preparation and 32 national festivals and 70 performances, will make a thunderous symbolic appeal - through its silence - to unite people across all borders to honour the memory of the 176 victims.

In case the Festival should go on, Odin Teatret will not be with you. But we both know that we will meet again.

In friendship,

En español:

De: Eugenio Barba
Enviado: martes 14 de enero de 2020 14.00

Querido Mehrdad

Te escribo como un amigo a quien respeto su integridad, lo que me permite hablarte abiertamente.

Hace unos años te esforzaste lo más posible para invitar al espectáculo  El árbol en Teherán, la primera parte de la "Trilogía de los inocentes" del Odin Teatret. El espectáculo describe el destino de las víctimas de prejuicios, odio y guerra. En febrero del 2020 deberíamos presentar la segunda parte de esta trilogía, La vida crónica. Tenía muchas ganas de reencontrarte y compartir este espectáculo con amigos y espectadores de tu país que nos habían abrazado calurosamente anteriormente.

Pero de repente 176 inocentes llenaron el cielo de Teherán. Muchos en todo el mundo han sentido dolor y horror, incluso en tu país. Y somos un cuerpo unido junto con las personas que en Irán expresan su dolor por las víctimas. El dolor arde dentro nuestro en una fusión de vergüenza e ira y un deseo de rebelarse contra el destino injusto de los cuerpos lacerados.

Hay un tiempo para permitir el intercambio y la diversidad. Por eso existen festivales de teatro. Y hay un tiempo para que los festivales estén de luto y permitir que la vida vuelva a renacer. Un poema del poeta turco Nazim Hikmet dice:

La vida no admite bromas. / Has de vivir con seriedad, / como una ardilla / sin esperar ayuda de aquí o de allá. / Tu más serio quehacer será vivir. / Has de tomar la vida tan en serio / que a los setenta años, plantarás olivos / no para que les queden a tus hijos; / sino porque, aunque la temas, lucharás contra la muerte. / Y la vida pesará más en la balanza.

Querido Merdhad

Por favor, cancela el Festival como un signo de luto y dolor. Sé que ministros, personas poderosas y los pensadores racionales considerarán absurda a esta propuesta. Convéncelos de que la vida pesa más que la muerte, que al cancelar tantos meses de esfuerzos y expectativas estás plantando un olivo. Dará frutos en el futuro, y muchas personas del teatro se unirán a usted para ayudarlos, y recogerlos, en tu próximo festival.

Con amistad,
Eugenio Barba

In italiano:

Da: Eugenio Barba
Inviato: martedì 14 gennaio 2020 14.00

Caro Mehrdad

ti scrivo come amico di cui rispetto l’integrità che mi permette di parlarti apertamente.

Qualche anno fa hai fatto del tuo meglio per invitare a Teheran L’albero, la prima parte della "Trilogia degli innocenti" dell’Odin Teatret. Lo spettacolo descrive la sorte delle vittime dei pregiudizi, dell’odio e della guerra. Nel febbraio 2020 avremmo dovuto presentare la seconda parte di questa trilogia, La vita cronica. Non vedevo l'ora di incontrarti di nuovo e di condividere questo spettacolo con amici e spettatori che nel tuo paese ci avevano abbracciato calorosamente.

Ma improvvisamente 176 innocenti hanno riempito il cielo di Teheran. Molti, in tutto il mondo, hanno provato dolore e orrore, anche nel tuo paese. E siamo un intero corpo insieme alle persone che in Iran esprimono il loro dolore per le vittime. Il dolore brucia dentro di noi in una fusione di vergogna e rabbia e un desiderio di ribellarsi contro il destino ingiusto dei corpi lacerati.

C'è un tempo per consentire lo scambio e la diversità. Per questo esistono i festival teatrali. E c'è un tempo per i festival di essere in lutto e consentire alla vita di ricrescere. Una poesia del poeta turco Nazim Hikmet dice:

La vita non è uno scherzo // Prendila sul serio come lo scoiattolo // senza aspettarti nulla dal di fuori o dall'aldilà. // La vita deve essere la tua intera occupazione.// Prendi sul serio la vita a tal punto // che a settant'anni pianterai degli ulivi // non perché restino ai tuoi figli // ma perché lotterai con la morte pur temendola. / E la vita peserà di più sulla bilancia.

Caro Mehrdad,

per favore, annulla il Festival in segno di lutto e dolore. So che ministri, persone potenti e pensatori razionali considereranno assurda questa proposta. Convincili che la vita pesa più della morte, che revocando tanti mesi di sforzi e aspettative stai piantando un ulivo. Porterà frutti in futuro, e molte persone del teatro si uniranno a te per aiutarti a coglierli nel tuo prossimo Festival.

In amicizia,
Eugenio Barba

På dansk:

Fra: Eugenio Barba
Sendt: Tirsdag, 14. januar 2020 14.00

Kære Mehrdad

Jeg skriver til dig som en ven, hvis integritet jeg respekterer, og som tillader mig at tale åbent til dig.

For nogle år siden gjorde du dit yderste for at invitere Træet, første del af Odin Teatrets De uskyldiges trilogi, til Teheran. Forestillingen handler om ofrene for fordomme, had og krig. I februar 2020 skulle vi præsentere den anden del af denne trilogi, Det kroniske liv. Jeg glædede mig til at se dig igen og dele denne forestilling med venner og tilskuere, som i dit land havde modtaget os med varme.

Men pludselig fyldtes himlen over Teheran med 176 uskyldige. Mange over hele verden følte sorg og frygt, også i dit land. Og vi står alle sammen, som én eneste krop, med det iranske folk i dets smerte over ofrene. Smerten brænder i os i en blanding af skam og vrede sammen med et ønske om at gøre oprør mod den uretfærdige skæbne, som ramte de 176 sønderflænsede kroppe.

Der findes en tid til at tillade forskellighed og udveksling. Derfor eksisterer teaterfestivalerne. Og der findes en tid til at sørge og gøre det muligt for livet at vokse igen. Et digt af den tyrkiske poet, Nazim Hikmet, siger:

Livet er ikke en vittighed.// Tag det alvorligt som et egern// Uden at forvente noget hverken udefra eller fra hinsides.// At leve skal være hele din beskæftigelse.// Tag Livet alvorligt i sådan en grad/ At når du fylder 70 vil du plante oliventræer// Ikke for at efterlade dem til dine børn// Men fordi du vil kæmpe med Døden, selvom du er bange for den.// Og Livet vil veje tungere på vægten.

Kære Mehrdad,

Jeg beder dig aflyse festivalen som et tegn på sorg og smerte. Jeg ved, at ministre, magtfulde mennesker og de, der tænker rationelt, vil betragte dette forslag som absurd. Overbevis dem om, at livet vejer tungere end døden, og at du ved at tilbagekalde så mange måneders indsats og forventning planter et oliventræ. Og det vil bære frugt i fremtiden, og mange teaterfolk vil hjælpe dig med at plukke den i din næste festival.

I venskab

Eugenio Barba