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the Complete Review
the complete review - drama

     

Othello in Wonderland

by
Gholamhoseyn Sa'edi


general information | review summaries | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Othello in Wonderland



Title: Othello in Wonderland
Author: Gholamhoseyn Sa'edi
Genre: Drama
Written: (1985) (Eng. 1996)
Length: 46 pages
Original in: Persian
Availability: in: Othello in Wonderland and Mirror-Polishing Storytellers - US
in: Othello in Wonderland and Mirror-Polishing Storytellers - UK
  • Persian title: اتللو در سرزمین عجایب
  • Published in Othello in Wonderland and Mirror-Polishing Storytellers, which is:
    • Edited and with an Introduction by M.R.Ghanoonparvar
    • Translated by Michael Phillips, with M.R.Ghanoonparvar
    • With an afterword, 'Othello in the Islamic Republic', by Kaveh Safa

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Our Assessment:

B : a bit obvious and familiar, but quite well done

See our review for fuller assessment.




Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The Tribune . 24/4/2005 M.L. Raina


  From the Reviews:
  • "All this is hilarious but grim -- a sharp reminder that in the land of the Ayatollahs everything must pass through the state’s moral meat-grinder." - M.L. Raina, The Tribune

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       Othello in Wonderland, written in the 1980s when author Gholamhoseyn Sa'edi was living in exile, is a play that readily demonstrates why the playwright felt he had to leave his native Iran. In Othello in Wonderland the Damavand Troupe is trying to stage Shakespeare's Othello in then-contemporary Iran, its post-revolutionary Islamic Republic-regime now already firmly entrenched and meddling; when the play opens the actors are waiting for the director to return from his visit to the Ministry of Culture and Islamic Guidance, to get the now necessary "letter of permission" to stage the play.
       The director returns triumphant, admitting:

Yeah, guys, they really make it hard, but they're flaky and you can talk them into anything.
       Of course, there are some conditions, such as "Islamic veiling" for the actors ..... And the authorities do want to take a closer look at what they've signed off on, so soon enough the Minister of Islamic Guidance himself comes, with two academics, a female representative, Zeynab Sister, and a Revolutionary Guard.
       The Revolutionary Guard takes everything completely literally, unable to differentiate between drama and reality, and so he's ready (and eager) to deal with everything that happens on stage as if it were real (terrifying the actors). The Minister and the eager-to-please academics pretend to be more worldly but are a pretty sorry lot too. Professor Khorush, for example, explains that what needs to be done can't be considered censorship but must be considered more like a medical procedure -- like an enema, for example, as:
Brown sugar enemas for the purpose of ideological political guidance will help us resist the global oppression of the East and West. In the case of theater arts, they are necessary, in other words a responsibility.
       Professor Makhmalchi is similarly eager to ingratiate himself with the new regime, explaining:
Of course, in my works I show the deepest respect and admiration for the character of Shakespeare, whose name and works have been distorted and misrepresented by the world imperialism. Right now, I am in the midst of writing a book in which I prove that Shakespeare was a Moslem Bedouin Arab by the name of Sheykh Zobeyr, whose name and works have been distorted and continue to be distorted
       Plays such as Othello in Wonderland are, of course, familiar from any number of previous totalitarian regimes -- they were almost a dime a dozen during Soviet/Communist-regime times -- with similar amusing misrepresentations of what the play-to-be-performed actually involved to make it palatable to the nutty ideology of the day. In the mid-1980s this particular variation was still something relatively new, and so this spin at least showed a new variation on the theme; in the decades since foreign expectations about Iranian censorship have reached a stage where little of this -- including the tailoring (or reinterpretation) of the facts -- seems surprising any longer. (Ironically, in a way: Iranian censorship, even nowadays, is nowhere near as obvious and predictable as Sa'edi suggests, and a surprising variety of foreign work continues to be published and staged there; so, too, Shakespeare hasn't been as radically reinterpreted as in the play -- indeed, just a day before I wrote this, IBNA reported on the Iranian publication of a new translation of a book about Shakespeare by Peter Crisp.)
       Sa'edi's satire is certainly amusing, and cleverly uses Othello as a play-within-a-play. The representatives (and bootlicks) of the new ideology all are presented rather over the top in their extreme reactions, beliefs, and willingness to bend the facts, but then this is a work of broad rather than subtle comedy.
       Yes, it's all a bit familiar and obvious, and it is a play of its time, but it is quite successful, and offers a few good laughs (as well as that obvious darker message).

- M.A.Orthofer, 18 June 2013

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Links:

Othello in Wonderland: Reviews: Other books by Gholamhoseyn Sa'edi under review: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       Iranian author Gholamhoseyn Sa'edi (Gholam-Hossein Saedi, غلامحسین ساعدی) lived 1935 to 1985.

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© 2013 the complete review

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