Brighton Fringe Review: My Father Held a Gun

Now don’t tell me stories! That’s the accusation parents make to a child suspected of not telling the truth. But what if, as adults, we don’t know when our own stories are true, false or a bit of both? More seriously, what if we don’t even know where they start or finish?

These are some of the puzzles ‘My Father…’ taunts and delights us with in a sixty-minute cornucopia of contrasting tales. Sahand Sahebdivani and Raphael Rodan are two storytellers who live in Amsterdam. It’s not quaint. One of them comes from Iran and the other from Israel. Their fathers might have killed each other.

They shuffle onto a bare stage, conversational, as if they have forgotten the script. Already they are deceiving us! We are about to enter a fiendishly clever labyrinth. Their very modern tales are dramatised with that imperceptible shift from the ordinary to the magical that is the storytellers’ gift.

These are not tales for children. Assassinations at the kindergarten won’t appeal. The torture of dissidents for writing polite letters to heads of state isn’t cute.

But the narratives are multi-dimensional. In World War I, the act of mercy by a German soldier to a wounded man between the trenches is reciprocated by the refusal of a French soldier to fire. It’s Christmas and they all end up playing football and saying “frohe Weihnachten” and “mais oui”.

“Yes, love and peace is all we need,” Says one of our protagonists. We are feeling sentimental. His mother escaped a dictator by walking over a mountain. “But peace and justice is important,” says the other. His father was an activist who wanted to fight for the Palestinians. And we are off again as our two protagonists argue furiously with each other.

The play is punctuated by very different tales. There are the dangers of love at first sight, nearly wrecked by 38 phone calls in a day. It’s amazing the trouble a single rose can cause.

The atmosphere is enhanced, without ever being upstaged, by Guillermo Celano’s guitar and effects, and Iman Spaargaren’s sax and clarinet. The ‘Lili Marleen’ song is beautifully crafted alongside mostly abstract sounds.

The stories are neither linear nor sequential. Instead, we are taken back and forth between tales with consummate skill. It takes us to the core of modern disputes in which all narratives can appear provisional. In this performance, as with all good storytelling, there are multiple endings and meanings. It’s massively compelling.

Sweet Werks 1 (Middle St), Monday 21st May 2018
Returns 24th – 27th May

Reviews 4 weeks old

Mike Aiken

Mike lives in Brighton. This is a full time occupation. He's also a researcher, writer and activist. Any time left over he spends hanging around cafes and pubs listening to people on their phones. He loves theatre that pokes into difficult places. You won't find him on Facebook.

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