Tea & Chat with Nazli Tabatabai

By Maud Webster & Taryn Everdeen

“Nazli Tabatabai-Khatambahksh is an award winning independent theatre maker born in Iran and now based in Scotland”


I – along with my fellow YNAF comms member Taryn Everdeen and co-ordinator Megan Thrift – recently had the pleasure of sitting down in Kinda Kafe with Nazli Tabatabai for tea & a little chat. Well, a little chat which quickly turned deep and enlightening, finding ourselves traversing topics ranging from navigating boundaries, the interaction between audience and artist, to joy. Her week-long residency at the National Centre for Writing was coming to a conclusion and we were keen to snag an interview with her before she traveled back up North. She described her week in Norwich as ‘restorative, revelatory; but it’s been challenging. A facing of self, genuine facing of self.’ She felt the exploration of art and self in a very different city has been an opportunity for collaboration and understanding.

Her voice had a meditative quality, lulling you into a cosy sense of security whilst stimulating your mind with shrewd stories and insights on our society. On the subject of the arts, she comments:

‘It’s how we genuinely connect. It’s about that connection to emotion. It’s one of the few things that allow us to reflect on the truthfulness of what’s happening in a way that invites debate. It allows us to push boundaries.’

We spoke a lot about the vitality of storytelling. How can we learn, teach and enjoy through the narratives which art and storytelling can convey?

‘As much as I am a seeker of non-narrative… I’m interested in how we hand over the dramaturgy to the audience and allow them to understand for themselves what they’re experiencing. But I think how we tell stories is essential – it’s part of our humanity, how we live between law and religion. It’s the space where we are figuring things out, without feeling like we have to be aligned to one thing or another. It’s to be able to exist in someone else’s imagination. It is to revel and escape and discover empathy. It is how we re-represent people, telling stories in new ways. Always asking ‘whose story is it?’ Who needs to be invited into this space?’

We also spoke about opportunity, privilege and how to ensure the equality of our voices in both the arts and general society. This was largely centred around the idea of having access to ‘the table’, a concept which pops up a lot in societal discussion and exclusivity of both private organisations and those public.

‘Who’s not at the table? Actually, we need to take the table to them. No, the table’s getting in the way, let’s get rid of it. When I start to feel comfortable, I ask myself how can we disrupt this?’

Nazli is a phenomenal woman: her observations on the arts and how individuals relate themselves to each other whirred in my mind for days after, even still now.

Thank you to Engage! at the NWC for facilitating the prior workshop, and the YNAF team for organising this opportunity to chat to Nazli. Lastly, and enormous thank you to Nazli for giving us her time and ideas. Find her work online; it is incredible. (https://bit.ly/2RW4R4G)


Photo credit: Taryn Everdeen

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