★★★★★ | Haram Iran
Two young men were publicly hanged in a square in Mashhad, Iran on 19th July 2005. The new play Haram Iran tells this horrific story.
Ayaz Marhoni and Mahmoud Asgari were both teenage boys who liked to hang out together. But it was suspected that these two young men had a homosexual affair, though the true nature of their crime had never actually been confirmed. But they were publicly executed after being convicted on the trumped up charges of raping a 13-year old boy.
The Above the Stag theatre in Vauxhall has produced a play that re-enacts and tries to give credence and understanding to the story of these two young men, and their lives, and their execution. It’s an amazing and relevant play.
Ayaz (Viraj Juneja) and Mahmoud (Andrei Costin) play ball, study together and hang out at Ayaz’s house. They’re fast becoming good friends, enough so that it makes Fareed (Merch Husey) jealous. Mahmoud spends a lot of time at Ayaz’s house, in his bedroom, just hanging out. Ayaz is obsessed with books, books that his mother (Silvana Malmone) has illegally kept as she’s not allowed to have them because of Sharia law.
Ayaz is most enraptured by The Catcher in the Rye, and he reads passages of the book to Mahmoud. Some of the passages are sexual, making the young men a bit turned on. One day Ayaz notices huge marks on Mahmoud’s back, caused by whippings inflicted on him by his father. Ayaz rubs oil on Mahmoud’s back, but it’s this act, witnessed by Fareed, which causes their downfall. Ayaz is initially charged with corrupting, and penetrating Mahmoud, is thrown in jail, and repeatedly raped by the prison guard (Fanos Xenofos). Eventually they are both charged with consensual homosexual acts and the judge (George Savvides) punishes them to death.
Haram Iran is a hugely important play that highlights the brutality and injustice that these two young innocent men endured in Iran. While not every scene in Haram Iran might not have actually taken place, what is fact is the murder at the hands of the Iranian government of these two young men.
Directed by Gene David Kirk with brutal and emotional intensity, Haram Iran was written by Lawyer Jay Paul Deratany, who happened to find the story online. And each member of the cast are excellent. Juneja and Costin are both very believable as Ayez and Mahmoud, young and innocent but punished nonetheless. Maimone as Ayaz’s mother is superb in her role. Xenofos is very scary (and a bit too believable) as the prison guard who shows no mercy, while and Savvides is downright cold, mean and heartless as the judge.
Haram Iran is a brutal yet delicate story of two young men who didn’t deserve to die because of who they were.
Haram Iran plays at Above The Stag until the 1st May 2016
Tim Baros writes film and theatre articles/ reviews for Pride Life and The American magazines and websites, as well as for Hereisthecity.com, Blu-RayDefinition.com and TheGayUK.com. He has also written for In Touch and TNT Magazines, SquareMile.com and LatinoLife.co.uk. He is a voting member for the UK Regional Critics Circle and the Gay & Lesbian Entertainment Critics Association (GALECA – of which he is the UK representative). In addition, he has produced and directed two films: The Shirt and Rex Melville Desire: The Musical.