Carrying Shoes into the Unknown is a fictionalised account of historical events by Rosemary Johns. It’s set in Iran in the late 1970s in the last days of the Shah when the Ayotollah Khomeini was coming into power. Apparently it is based on the true story of a Western family living in Iran during this time of turmoil, but I couldn’t find any mentions of this within the script.
Alice Mathew arrives in Iran to stay with her parents who are living there. From the moment of her arrival, she’s at risk: because she’s a woman, because she’s a Westerner, and also because she doesn’t understand the appropriate ways she needs to behave.
Her father has become too involved with a dodgy bank and is now being threatened and intimidated. Her mother is in denial about the precariousness of their situation and Alice compounds the problems by falling for an Iranian doctor.
The play at times feels didactic – perhaps because it is trying to give a history lesson as well as tell a story.
AMIR: You whose eyes are blue as seas offshore from paradise. You carry your copy of Sinbad. Me, I do not believe in fantasy. I am a ninety-per-cent realist. The head is superior. One should always think.
ALICE: Fantasy might have saved me.
AMIR: This is no fantasy, Alice. This is the Iran that is hidden.
ALICE: What about the beautiful Iran? I’ve seen the pictures in the brochures. Where’s that? The place of gardens and fountains, the poetry of Persia.
AMIR: Ah! A typical nurse. Looks practical but is romantic. Yes, the Shah too is fond of Persia … the beginning of monarchy 2,500 years ago. He has recently abolished the Muslim calendar. He does this to take power from the mullahs.
I imagine this could be a powerful play in production. I would have liked a better idea of how much of it was based on real experiences and how much of it invented by the playwright.
Carrying Shoes into the Unknown is published alongside Dolly Stainer of Kew Cottages by Janet Brown.
Publisher: Currency Press
Cast: 3M, 3F