Persian Cycle: Recital of the Bird


By Avicenna
Adapted by the director
Workspace of Jerzy Grotowski, California
Piatra Neamtz International Theatre Festival, Romania;
Salle de Oblats, Belgium

"It was clear to [Grotowski] that Saidpour had used theatre as a means to an end… He told Saidpour that he felt a solidarity with him on the basis of these goals… Only when craft is fully resolved, Grotowski emphasized, can performance techniques become means for addressing something which lies beyond theatre… In the absence of artistic mastery, one's work despite noble intentions, degenerates into an amorphous soup, self-indulgent and self-deluding."—Lisa Wolford, New Theatre Quarterly


Based on a story by Avicenna, one of the most significant Persian thinkers and writers of the Islamic Golden Age, Recital of the Bird belongs to a literary genre in which the author recaptures his spiritual autobiography in the form of a symbolic story. Saidpour's staging was strongly influenced by semiology conventions of ta'ziyeh, an indigenous Iranian performance genre developed out of mourning rites. The performance emphasized deliberately naive performance style, relying on simple props and the storytellers magic to suggest transformation of both space and situation.

Recital heavily emphasized musical forms, with the Singaporean-Chinese actress Gei Ping Ang performing the role of the Bird using exclusively Chinese songs throughout the performance. Saidpour juxtaposed the songs of the Bird with an English narration. The Narrator, who represented the rational self, shadowed the Bird—symbolizing the soul—throughout, and "interpreted" the uttering of the Bird/Soul for the spectators.

"Deeply emotional… Gei Ping's voice would break and her face stream with tears as she turned longingly towards the Garden, singing in Chinese. MacDonald [The Narrator] approached, placing her hands gently on Gei Pings shoulders as if to sustain her. 'When they caught me, Mother,' the Narrator whispered, 'they broke my wings, that I may not fly to you.'"—Lisa Wolfword, New Theatre Quarterly