In 2005 two teenagers, Mahmoud Asgari and Ayaz Marhoni, were hanged in Justice Square in Mashhad, Iran. The crime for which they were hanged was the rape of a 13-year old boy; to this day, however, many believe they were executed simply for being gay. ‘Haram Iran’ is a fictional re-telling of their story, which sets out to portray the insular world in which they grew up and the circumstances which led to their shocking deaths.
This was my first visit to the tiny Above the Stag Theatre, which is located underneath the railway arches at Vauxhall. It lent itself perfectly to the claustrophobic, insular world portrayed by the play, with the occasional rumble of a train passing overhead only adding to the feeling of menace. Tiny the theatre may be, but the play itself tackled massive themes, among them homophobia, women’s rights and religious fanaticism.
Unsurprisingly, it was not an easy watch: a more raw, angry and despairing two hours I have rarely experienced. Despite the play’s tragic ending, however, the power of the human spirit somehow shone through, exemplified in a mother’s love for her child, the enduring power of friendship and the compassion that human beings can show towards each other, even in the most terrifying of circumstances.