Review: Dual دوگانه, VAULT Festival

Warehouses, one-way systems, pubs turned into dentists, the redeveloped but not pulled down Pie & Mash, ‘a pound a bananas!’ the 115 bus, that voice that does the announcements at Stratford station, ‘real’ London, not tourist London… what does that mean? What makes you a tourist? What makes you the‘best of British’? 

Sat in the Pit at the Vaults, my mind is easily transported out of the familiar streets of London and into what feels almost cave-like, an underground hideout that is potentially full of secrets, stories and strangers. Set Designer Isabella Van Braeckel has creatively pieced together a giant projector wall made out of correx sheet boards – sounds simple! However, the illusion in front of me creates an atmosphere reminiscent of an art exhibition. Al Orange’s projections bring to life a visual landscape which allows our minds to wander, channeling our thoughts and immersing us in the experience. From the very beginning I have the feeling that I’m about to be, in some form or another, revolutionised. 

Dual دوگانه, written and performed by Peyvand Sadeghian, takes us on a journey using hospitality and kindness, overshadowing darkness, as she tells her story through drag, poetry, puppetry and personal/archival interviews. The story is her own and of a life torn by two worlds, East London and Iran. We hear of how at ten years old, Peyvand, more comfortable travelling by ferry to the occasional day out in Woolwich, took a much longer trip with her father to meet her family in Iran for the first time, how once she arrived she was made to change her name, subjected to new rules and regulations and a new culture – repeat gestures handed down through generations. Tougher still is her conflict within herself – who she was when in Iran and who she is back in Britain, and the defining question of whether she will ever truly feel that sense of belonging in either.

Despite being an overload of mental provocativeness, Dual دوگانه, does not fail to entertain. Sadeghian is hilarious as she performs with a relaxed but controlled charm, asking and then ordering the audience to play along with her challenges, dance moves and chants. But what really gives strength to this piece is the conversations that have clearly been had between producer Penny Babakhani and director Nastazja Somers, resulting in the ability of Sadeghian to make us think deeply. Connecting along the lines of her story, she asks; What would we like to change? What would we be willing to fight for? not just fight for, but risk our lives in order to make that change. This in itself is a luxury, being able to choose to fight when so many others simply just have to. It’s not easy for many of us to understand the term ‘risk’ when a privilege such as having enough to eat is taken truly for granted. Looking around the audience it is encouraging to see the impact Dual is having on them and on myself, as we realise how brave this piece is, as it has us stop and consider what would provoke us to be this brave in our lives. 

Dual دوگانه leaves us with a sense of hope that people are listening to each other, and are willing to stand together and be better, be stronger and be united. But it also gives us a reality check, by reminding us that it’s way more complicated than that and if we really want to understand the world, we must take into account the whole of it. The least we can do is listen to everyone in it, and if you feel like you are heading in the wrong direction you need to make your discontent known then make some noise. If you’re at the back make some noise, if you’re at the front make some noise, if you’re in the middle… what are you doing in the middle?

Dual دوگانه is playing the VAULT Festival until 23 February. For more information and tickets, visit the VAULT Festival website.