A young impressionable mind doesn’t need to look out too far for influences. Family, friends and the Internet; all these make for an entire world of exciting possibilities. But what can broaden the mind can do the reverse too. How fast can a person be exploited through false promises? This is the broad premise of the play Paradise by the Youth Theatre of Dusseldorf/D’haus, a psychological one-hour play which delves into the mind of 19-year-old teenager Hamid who contemplates becoming a suicide bomber. It also highlights the story of a teenager today—dangerous and harmless, funny and serious, naïve and thoughtful.
Paradise, which debuted two years ago in Germany, is now set to premiere in the city this Saturday. Written by Lutz Hubner and Sarah Nemitz, the play was an outcome of Crossroads-The Author’s Project, initiated by the theatre makers from Maharashtra Cultural Centre and Junges Schauspielhaus Düsseldorf five years ago. The award-winning resident director of the State Theatre at Dresden, Mina Salehpour, was invited to help develop the play. Born in Tehran, she was able to connect with the premise of the play as the writers had visualised.
The story of Hamid unfolds at a club which could be practically anywhere in the world. There is music and there is a constant flux of people even as the protagonist navigates through his thoughts. “I wanted the play to take place in the protagonist’s head, so that the audience can imagine, that there are different endings possible,” said Salehpour in an email interview, apologising for not being able to make it to the city for the play. She elaborates how in theatre and in life, different endings are possible and that our society has the opportunity to decide, just like the protagonist has to decide in the end – to be or not to be a suicide bomber. “What is right, what is wrong? I wanted to invite audience into Hamid’s head. We are all responsible for the decisions our society makes and although Hamid is an individual very different to me, for example, we all are connected.”
Throughout, there is music playing. The ‘club’ music is the reason why Salehpour decided to keep the audience standing during the performance. It is a calculated decision on her part in order to keep the audience moving and therefore, the thoughts in Hamid’s head vivid and fluid. Since she knew the authors well, having worked together for a long time, Salehpour remarked on their “extraordinary handling” of all her ideas and approach to the topics. “In the end, we had the very same vision,” she said.
So, in the hour before midnight he gets to make the decision, people and thoughts flash through in front of Hamid, from his family, girlfriend Sonja, ‘brothers’ who have enticed him to the pleasant childhood memories. Salehpour guides the protagonist in dealing with the dilemma he faces dipping into her experience as a director. In arts there are no constraints, only liberties, she said. “That’s a good thing about being an artist and not a politician.”
Since Paradise is aimed at an audience which will also comprise of youngsters – although the minimum age requirement is 14 years – Salehpour had to find a path between the artistic point of view and the young audiences feelings. “The most important thing about this performance is not the performance itself, but the discussion we have with the whole audience after each show.”
What: Paradise by the Youth Theatre Dusseldorf/D’haus
When: July 13, 7.30pm
Where: Ranga Shankara