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  • Writer's pictureRyanosheatheatre

Name Shift_

I’ve decided to change the name of my latest show, I R A N. It’s always been a question in my head whether the name was appropriate to the material I was presenting. The spaces in-between the letters in the title were important. They represented a break down, an absence, a disintegration of language. However, when presented to venues and audiences this really wasn’t obvious. People just assumed the show was about the country Iran. The show is actually an exploration of the narrative presented in the song “I Ran (so far away)” by 80’s synth band A Flock of Seagulls. The confusion is clear.

When initially devising the show, I was interested in the confusion of language and meaning. Words are inherently playful; one word can often have multiple meanings. This makes it an exciting topic to make work about. The fact that I was also interested in using text on a scrolling LED text bar filled my brain with exciting ideas about warping the meaning of objects in a very conceptually clear way. Then the song came along and I became interested in this abstract narrative and melancholic optimistic feeling that the song induces. It became clear that this was now the driving force behind what I was making but my thoughts about language and meaning were still informing the piece.

After working on the show for a little while it became time to name it. Names are sometimes really easy to come up with. Sometimes they are the first thing you think of and the whole piece is driven by its name. Other times names are really difficult. How do you come up with a title that neatly represents the material and is interesting enough to capture the attention of audiences and programmers? I R A N came slightly late in my process but I was really excited by the concept. I was working with the song “I Ran” and working with idea of shifting language; it hit me that the title of the song was made of 4 letters that were exactly the same as a country. Interesting. I knew I definitely didn’t want to make a show about the country Iran, however, I was interested in what would happen to the show if audiences came in thinking it was. Could the whole meaning and outcome of the work change because of a title? I asked this question to a good friend of mine, Ciarán Hodgers. Ciarán is a brilliant poet and wordsmith so who better to guide me in my thoughts about words and names. I remember Ciarán not being keen on the name, he made very good points about the difficult subject matter of that one specific country and that it’s probably not a good idea to wade into that territory without extensive thought and research. I listened. I decided to call my show I R A N anyway.

I first presented a preview of the performance at Axis Arts Centre where another good friend and good wordsmith Calum Dwyer saw the show. He was also working on the box office and told me afterwards that maybe I should rethink the name as lots of people came asking for tickets and thought the show was a full on reflective statement about the country. I agreed that this wasn’t ideal and that maybe the name was problematic and needlessly provocative. I listened. I decided to carry on calling the show I R A N.

Early set ideas for the show

In January 2019, I presented the final work-in-progress performance at Bristol Old Vic’s Ferment Fortnight. It was brilliant and the show had really developed into something I was proud of. After the performance, I collated the audience feedback and one audience member found the name to be really problematic as it seemed as if I had naively taken the name of a country under threat and of great politically divide just to make a meaningless pun. They were right and part of making theatre is about listening to audiences so I really felt like I had to make a change to the name in order to reflect the material and content of the show. As the piece has developed, the concepts around language and meaning became secondary. Therefore, the name I R A N is slightly naïve and I feel doesn’t properly represent the work.

The next question is what should I call the show? I talked about this a lot with Danny Prosser from Massive Owl who is a dramaturg on the project. We thought maybe I R U N or I R U N (so far away) to link it back to the song. Maybe just simply I Ran - but that seemed to close to the song. Maybe it should be something completely different like Aurora but this made us think of Disney princess. I Listened to all the suggestions but I have decided to not necessarily change the name of the show. I have decided instead to shift the name. So instead of I R A N with the spaces, the piece will now be known as I_RAN. This gives a more coded, tech feel that represents the show well without being too far away from the song title. It’s a subtle shift that will hopefully take a distinctive step away from the country. A subtle shift but an important one.


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