DIRECTOR: Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh
WRITER: Steven Gaythorpe
VENUE: Tron Theatre, Glasgow
Well-meaning but inescapably clunky, Transit is the story of a young woman in 1988 trying to come to terms with her dual Iranian and English identity.
Transit is a two-hander between Brianna Douglas as Darya, a young woman who chose to move to Iran with her mother as a child, and Matt Jamie as Roger, her vain, musician father still living in England. But it’s Douglas’ who really shines, and the play is at its strongest strongest during her monologues and time alone on stage. She gives a excellently energetic, physical performance, although sometimes it’s too much of a good thing. She’s too strong an actress to be called one-note, but she delivers at an intensity that stops her from giving Darya any nuance or vulnerability, and you can’t help but feel that if she pulled back, even a little, it would have imbued her performance with a sensitivity that seemed to be lacking.
Jamie isn’t as well served by Steven Gaythorpe’s script, and his performance suffers as a result. His story doesn’t really give any insight into his character, and instead is used as a device to clumsily info-dump on the audience. Jamie’s engagement with the script is stark when compared to Douglas’- when she’s giving it 150%, Jamie is giving it about 30%- and the result is a significant disconnect between the two actors- fatal to a drama centred around a climactic meeting between a long estranged father and daughter. Without a connection to invest in, the exploration of their relationship is redundant.
Director Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh and writer Gaythorpe can’t seem to decide what they want this play to be about. Sometimes it’s about a girl stuck between two identities and culture, and at other times it’s about surviving in a war zone. Sometimes it’s family drama, while other times it’s about politics between the East and West (here any pretence of characterisation is dropped, Darya and Roger just become mouthpieces shouting political stances at each other). Of course the political determines the personal, and a story half set in war zone can’t ignore politics, but it awkwardly juts from subject to subject and there is no sense of flow or cohesion. Ultimately it’s uneven, working well is some places and failing in others.
Despite the sparse set there’s some lovely stagecraft here, with black and white illustrations by Erin McGrath flickering on stage reflects Darya’s inner thoughts and emotions. Combined in moments of high drama with loud, jarring sound effects and bare minimum lighting, Tabatabai-Khatambakhsh creates a sense of suspense and dread as Darya struggles with memories of the Iran-Iraq war. It’s a well-crafted slice of theatre that momentary lifts Transit to greatness.
Sometimes the stars align for Transit and a thoughtful drama comes momentarily to the fore. But it bogs itself down by trying to be too many things in too short a time, and the result takes the audience on an increasingly uneven journey, rather than the well-intended thought-provoking look at a woman caught between culture and family.