Review at the NEU/NOW Festival in Porto

Festival Programme

July 2012

Based on a series of interviews conducted by the artist Ana Zirner in Tehran in 2011, Bahar and Omid is an unusual work – a piece that offers both a unique insight into the political and social realities of life for young contemporary Iranians, a generation Zirner's own age, and a new definition of what 'political theatre' might be today. The form of the piece has been developed through a deliberate confrontation with the realities of its foundational texts and the moral obligation to convey them in the most honest way possible. Rather than begin from traditional forms of political or documentary theatre, in Bahar and Omid the artist has followed her own personal response to the material she gathered.  

The actors in the piece are conduits for the texts. Bahar and Omid is not about the virtuosity of the performers, but they must work with great skill and honesty to communicate the interviews, delivering them in such a way that the audience is able to get as close as possible to the original voices at the heart of the piece.

Bringing clarity and transparency to the complicated relationship that exists between the subjects and the creators of documentary theatre, Bahar and Omid opens up a very personal, political view of a generation in Iran.

Review at the ITs Festival in Amsterdam

by Danielle Ludwig

June 2012

Spring and Hope = Bahar and Omid is Ana’s graduation project. Bahar means spring and omid means hope in Farsi. That’s the way people introduce themselves in Iran: They tell you their name and what it means. The story is about a brother and a sister in Iran and have different ideas how to deal with the situation in the country. In the piece they state their different opinions. Ana liked the combination of brothers and sisters, because they can have  different opinions, but on the other side they’re very close as well.

The piece is performed by two German actors. The characters are representatives of many brothers and sisters. Ana compiled the texts out of the interviews she took with brothers and sisters in Iran. The interviews are transcribed very carefully. She wanted to give the interviewees a voice and tell their story in a responsible way that is transferred through the theatre, which is clearly not a reality or documentary. The theme of the piece is dealing with the situation that you are in. The piece explores this on multiple levels: the people in Iran as well as actors and musicians on stage.

Besides a stage director, Ana is also working as a film director. In theatre, she likes combining reality with fictional storytelling and by doing that creating a third option. “In my work I’m dealing with factual realities, but when you put it on stage it is never real. This transition is the most difficult part and the most interesting artistic question”. Through this transition you can create an estrangement from reality. It gives you a new view on reality because of the distance. “The audience can change their perspective and everybody can do that in your own way, as a director I’m just giving the material. I’d like to think of my audience as a smart audience.”

Where do you get your inspiration from?

“What inspires me are the questions that come to my mind when I watch the news. It’s what is off the news what is inspiring me, when people stop talking about something.” Watching theatre is always inspiring: seeing certain rhythm or imagery.

Which director is inspiring for you?

Volker Canaris. He was not a director, but a dramaturge. He was my mentor, he died a few weeks ago. What I admire about him, is that he sees things with a very great clarity. He can break the most complicated things down to simple sentences and he always stays open. Why I would say he is sort of a role model for me, is he always stayed flexible and interested, not just in theatre but also in the world.

Which play would you still like to direct?

No, at the moment I don’t have a play that I still like to direct. I’m sure that will change, but at the moment I have foremost conflicts that I want to put on stage.

Which production are you most proud of and why?

This one. I’ve never done anything like this before, it  was like a plunge into cold water. I rediscovered myself with this production. Before this production, I separated the artistic side and the political side, and combining the two makes so much sense to me right now. I’m combining the political with the stage.

What is the next step? What is your next production about?

I’m making a piece that is about soldiers from Israel and Iran. I’m working in the same way in this production as in Spring and Hope. The thing that I state in this new production: it’s not the countries who go to war with each other, but the people who go to war with each other. The bigger framing part is the fact that soldiers often shoot with the same weapons and those weapons are made in Germany. This raises the question of responsibility: what is our part in it?

Excerpts of english language press about

spring and hope = bahar and omid

„(...) The simplicity and focus of this production is very impressive! (...)“ 

Godot Theatermagazin, Hamburg, 7th of April 2012

„(...) told in a very skilled, modest, simple and smart way (...)“

Barbara Burkhardt (Theater heute) in ihrem Juryurteil bei KSJR, 5. April 2012

„(...) a hopeful view to the spectator and the chance to get him out of the daily iconoclasm and raise him to being a listener (...)“

Michaela Neukirch, digger magazin, 3. April 2012

Excerpts of press about

where is my voice

„(...) emotionalising or voyeurism is not her thing (...)“ 

Sabine Leucht, Süddeutsche Zeitung, Bayern - Kultur, 5th of November 2012

„(...) It does not seem constricting at all, no: the performance offers surprisingly many laughs (...)“ 

report on Radio  M94,5 - Kulturmagazin, 10th of November 2012

„(...) The concept works, because sometimes it puts a mirror in front of us. And it creates a direct proximity to the stories it talks about and gets them into our own lives (...)“

Julia Fritzsche, zündFunk, BR, 5th of November 2012

„(...) impressive (…) an often times harrowing, but at the same time a revealing impression of the daily life between chador-repression and Gender-Studies at Tehran University.  (...)“ 

Patrick Wildermann, tagesspiegel, Berlin, 24. Februar 2013

„(...) The path Zirner chose is very honest. (...) great awareness for the use of stylistic means and in this case, six performers who expose themselves as the adventurous yet well-behaved guys they are. (...)“                                                                                                                                      

Sabine Leucht,, 13.2.2014

„ (...) It is more about the borders in the heads and about how to make them nimble. (...) With on the spot physicality a puzzle of lives and dreams in the middle east is created in this nevertheless cool made production. (...)“                                                                                

Mathias Hejny, Abendzeitung / Kultur, 14.2.2014

„(...)‚Brothers in Arms’ is more of a generational study of young men in different countries than a poltical performance. Fortunately (...)“

Christiane Lutz, Süddeutsche Zeitung / Kultur, 19.2.2014

Excerpts of press about

brothers in arms

Excerpts of press about


„ (...) the play manages to raise awareness for the issue of beggars and grants food for thought - for days. “                                                                                 

Felicia Hofner, m94,5 Kultur, 07.11.2015

Excerpts of press about

frei willig arbeiten

„ (...) they create a beautiful tableau of different working realisties that gets really great once the three start moving away from the reality of the others and start talking about their own (as actos). This is where it gets private and there is much to be found along the way. “                                                                                 

Egbert Tholl, Süddeutsche Zeitung, 07.07.2015

„(...) funny and moving (...)“                                                                                 

Alexander Altmann, Münchner Merkur, 07.07.2015

„ (...) convincing because of its authenticity (...) An intelligent, moving and important piece that manages without the least bit of lecturing.“                                                                                                                                  

Mario Kern, Niederösterreichische Nachrichten, Theaterkritik, 13.01.2016

„ A collage of verbatim material from the interviews (...) this 70-minute-show develops a striking urgency and force (...)“

Margarethe Affenzeller, DER STANDARD / Kultur, 10.01.2016

Excerpts of press about

Fiery speeches, blazing squares

„ (...) convincingly unobtrusive (...) the exposed authenticity of the verbatim texts turn it into an almost musically structured literary language (...) Without intrusive invitations to participate, the spectator himself becomes part of the mass-protest portrayed on stage (...) Within the anonymity of the global protests this play tells the moving biographies of individuals (...)“                                                                                 

Bernhard Doppler, Fazit, Deutschlandradio Kultur, 09.01.2016

(...) The Munich based theatermaker Ana Zirner, who has previously researced amon youth in Iran, homeless people on German streets and oppositionists in the middle east and who‘s projects never exclude the questioning of one‘s own point of view, has decided to conduct a radical self-research this time (...)

Silvia Stammen, Theater heute, February 2017

Excerpts of press about


(...) What‘s very well done is that „Privacy“ doesn‘t only criticize. Instead it shows in a smooth and positively soft-spoken and relaxing tone how misunderstandings, jealousy (...) but also light and intimate moments can be created in a chat. (...) This performance shows what is different than before, in a subtle and moving performance.“

Michael Stadler, Abendzeitung, 28.11.2016

(...) The texts that Theresa Seraphin wrote make it clear: The digital image is somehow more interesting and glamorous than the actual human being.

Laura Freisberg, BR, 22.11.2016

(...) It seems like a cool utopia, when Ana Zirner finally allows her poster-children-lovers to physically cling to each other for consolation in the end. (...)

Silvia Stammen, Theater heute, February 2017