A stunningly simple yet immersing and thoughtful performance, My Father Held a Gun attempts to answer the question: Why do men go to war?
A stunningly simple yet immersing and thoughtful performance
Storytelling duo Israeli Raphael Rodan and Iranian Sahand Sahebdivani have some very insightful takes on this question. Their brotherly banter was accompanied by live music by Guillermo Celano and Iman Spaargaren, and between the four of them and some clever lighting, the show transported the audience with agility between Rodan and Sahebdivani’s childhoods and family lives, and the French and German trenches of World War One.
The pair began by addressing the audience, giving a little history of the show, and talking reverently about their mothers, immigration to the Netherlands, and home. This happy and nostalgic opening was a lovely exploration of cultural identity, home, and history.
Interspersed with this personal plot line was a dramatisation of real letters written by soldiers on the front during WW1. Offering such a multi-dimensional appraisal of war was an effective way of tackling this problematic question. To set the scene, Celano and Spaargaren somehow managed to emulate sirens and gunfire using only a clarinet, a saxophone, an electric guitar, and some effects.
Rodan and Sahebdivani offered a critique of masculinity, of socialisation towards aggression and violent fear of emasculation – and how this can trigger international war and suffering. Paralleling their own stories with that of the WW1 letters to offered a clarity and perspective on an often cloudy subject area.
The pair asked: how can we, as men and as individuals, create peace instead of war? Is it the simple act of putting down the gun? That’s up to the viewer to decide. They criticised how swiftly men jump to arms, but in equal measure understood how sometimes there is little choice…
This was an impressive emotive achievement for a four-man show, and it is well deserving of a Gold award from the Amsterdam Fringe. This is 100% worth the ticket price: an eye-opening discussion of war and peace by two men with their hearts and heads in an excellent place.