There is an inordinate amount of huffing and puffing in Isfahan Calling,
Philip de Gouveia’s new play about a covert radio propaganda exercise
in the desert. The idea is to discredit the regime in Tehran and
demoralise Iranian army units across the border.
But the situation becomes fraught with complexity and personal
antagonisms as it emerges that the participants each have a different
reason for involvement on the mission, and the internal squabbles are
overtaken by the coalition forces launching a pre-emptive attack
against Iranian nuclear facilities.
New recruit Zahra (Zahra Ahmadi),
who is set on a course of revenge for the exile of her parents during
the 1979 revolution, throws herself enthusiastically into the war
effort, and director Kelly Wilkinson
winds up the tension, and the decibel level, to create a scary
atmosphere of bitterness, rivalry and laying claim to the moral high
Philip de Gouveia
is a freelance policy researcher and journalist who has reported on
transnational crime issues and illegal drugs trade. He has a real
talent for constructing argument but seems incapable, so far at least,
of transforming speech into signals of character or spiritual
The cast do their best to animate the shouting match with signs of intelligent life, but it’s an uphill struggle. Paul McEwan
as the operations leader Roy does have a journey of sorts to make in
his bullying authoritarianism, and the project’s tactics erupt
catastrophically when he makes a devastatingly ill-judged broadcast.
But the climax is crudely melodramatic and ill prepared, and the
conclusion virtually incomprehensible.
The Old Red Lion’s small square space has been convincingly transformed by designer Becky Gunstone into an impersonal operations centre and recording studio, and the dedicated cast list is made up by Richard Ings, Matthew Ashforde, Rebecca Keatley and Avi Nassa. De Gouveia crated a few waves with his first play, The Six Wives of Timothy Leary, but this time out he’s perhaps marking time for a bigger splash.