Silence. Silence is what sisters Fatemeh and Shirin live in every day in their Edinburgh tenement flat. The reason for the imposed silence is slowly, elegantly and heartbreakingingly, revealed in Sara Shaarawi’s Sister Radio.
Spanning over 40 years, from the 1970s, when Shirin moves into her older sister Fatimeh’s flat after their father has sent them ostensibly to Scotland to study (but in reality, to escape the impending Islamic Revolution in their homeland Iran), to the COVID pandemic in 2020.
Through monotonous repetition of their present-day domestic routines and flashbacks coloured by the ever-present radio, to their younger lives together, the story unfolds, adding a little more, and a little more with every scene.
The thoughts of the idealistic Shirin in the 1970s, who desperately wants to return to fight for her homeland, actually gives chills, given the benefit of hindsight and the horrifying case of Mahsa Amini at the hand of the country’s ‘morality police’ last month. Sister Fatimeh is much more accepting of her new life created in Scotland. However, it is a personal betrayal that is at the heart of the piece.
Both Lanna Joffrey (Fatemeh) and Nalân Burgess (Shirin) handle the piece with commendable restraint and deliver a believable chemistry between older and younger sister, indeed theirs is a five-star acting performance in a not-quite-perfect play. The domestic monotony does become too monotonous unfortunately, and the ending is a little stretched out, a little too sentimentally drawn together, which deprives the piece of the impact it could have had. That said, the post-curtain call speeches from both actors delivers a dose of the present-day reality in Iran that brings the audience to tears.
Runs until 22 October 2022 then continues touring | Image: Fraser Band