'Refugitive', his one man show played in New Mercury Theatre in Brisbane Australia on September 12th and 13th, has been widely praised by theatre lovers
Shahin Shafaei was an acclaimed actor and playwright in his native Iran. A Master in English literature from the University of Tehran he had over ten of his plays produced while directing and acting in many more. In 1997 he was awarded Best Actor at the Theatre Festival of Isfehan, Iran' leading theatre festival.
As he was presented with the award at the Festival Shahim shook the hands of the presenter, a woman. Public contact like this between men and women in Iran is banned and shortly afterwards Shahin was banned by the Iranian authorities from any theatrical or visual activity.
Shahin continued to have his plays performed in secret but in 1999 these performances were discovered and one of his plays was deemed as "anti-government." After the director of the play was arrested, Shahin was warned by the actors and he fled his home minutes before Iranian police arrived. He escaped to Indonesia via Malaysia where people smugglers offered him "safe passage" to Australia.
Shahin's boat was intercepted off Ashmore Reef in June 2000, and he was transported to the Curtin Detention where he remained for a period of 22 months, much of it in solitary confinement. During this time Shahin was regularly punished and placed in the isolation compound by the Australasian correctional Management (ACM) authorities for such 'crimes' as wanting to write a letter to the UN and inquiring about his application for refugee status. For the first ten months of his detention he was not even allowed to use a pen.
Eventually Shahin was released and he now lives in Sydney on a Temporary Protection Visa.
Although physically no longer behind razor wire, he still must deal daily with the horror of his time in Detention. He has now used his skills to turn his time in Curtin into a one man show, entitled Refugitive.
Refugitive is an extraordinarily moving and powerful piece of theatre that due to Shahin's skill is also entertaining, and even humorous. It is one man's story but it 's also the story of many. It is the perfect vehicle to carry the message of the tragedy of Mandatory Detention to all Australians. Refugitive is a surprisingly a-political piece of theatre, focusing instead on the courage and compassion of one person struggling to overcome enormous odds. The final message is one of hope.
Shahin in his own words
I began my theatre career as an Actor in 1992, Acting in two plays that year. The following two years I attended Dr. Karam Reza's Art Institute studying Drama and Directing.
In 1993 I wrote my first play Laily and Majnoon. A Persian version of Romeo and Juliet in which I explored the comparisons between the false traditional/religious life in Iran and the modern experiences of the younger generation.
Leily and Majnoon was a two and a half hour show involving a cast of 18 actors and was performed for the Theatre Festival of Tehran. However, the play was banned by the Government after the first performance.
I continued writing plays with a critical view towards religion and tradition, none of which were approved by the Government for performance. I was employed by The Performing Arts Centare in Tehran as an actor and assistant director, and then as director for works by other writers.
In 1996 I wrote and performed Hamisheh Mandegar (lasting forever) in The Annual Festival of War Theatre. This play was about a woman in Iraqi prisons during the Iran/Iraq, the only play ever written about this topic. It was also banned and following this I was prevented from writing by a Government ban as I was accused of spreading "poisoned beliefs".
I performed in the Theatre Festival of Isfehan in 1997 and was awarded best actor. I was then banned from any theatrical activities on the charge of shaking hands with a girl as I left the stage.
Despite the ban I wrote more plays and in late 1999 one of them Ghary-e-y-e Man ( my village) was performed by a PhD student at the University of Tehran. The play confronted the issues of the generation gap, religion and tradition. It was recognized as my work by the authorities which resulted in my fleeing Iran.
I wrote 12 plays during the eight years I was involved with the theatre; five of which were never approved for performance. Two plays were banned after performance, and the other five have been performed in private theatrical groups and not publicly.
I directed four plays and was assistant director for 12 of the 16 plays in which I have performed.
I have a Master Degree in English literature-University of Tehran (1995), Bachelor of English literature and Education - University of Tehran (1994), Graduate of Performing Art - Karam Reza's Art college (1994), and Higher School Certificate (Iran equivalent). Honors in Mathematics and Physics (1990)
I arrived in Australia on the 19th of June 2000 and I was detained in the Curtin Detention Centare until 12th February 2002. since then I have resided in Sydney on a Temporary Protection Visa which will expire in February 2005.