The stories of Iraqi women living through the wars in their homeland draw the audience into an intimate circle in a newly opened stage play in North Vancouver. Based on true events, 9 Parts of Desire reveals the deeply
personal histories of nine different women during the solo show.
Playwright Heather Raffo, an Iraqi-American, wrote the play after personally meeting many women and then creating a composite, dramatized version. The work moves beyond brusque war reports and into the complex narratives of women’s everyday lives and thoughts. In an immediate fashion, it examines how war affects human lives and spirits. Viewers will come away from the theatre feeling these profound effects and with a multi-dimensional perspective of Iraqis.
Toronto actor Valerie Buhagiar delivers a powerful performance as she recounts the stories of these characters. She speaks directly to the audience and leads the viewer through the vast range of human emotion — sorrow, anger, despair, bewilderment and more.
Samara, the young Iraqi schoolgirl, speaks about her father’s disappearance, the martyrdom of her brothers, and how the family hardly ever leaves the house anymore because there are too few male relatives to escort them.
A doctor speaks about the effects of bombing on the local people and laments the loss of the best physicians and hospitals in Baghdad.
Layal, the artist, tells of how she has lost everything in the bombing, except perhaps her creative freedom. She also speaks of the suffering of the people, especially women, under Saddam Hussein’s rule.
Umm Ghada (the mother of Ghada) describes an American attack on a civilian shelter thought to be a military communications centre during the Gulf War in 1991. She leads the audience through the wreckage and tells of how the two-bomb assault first drilled a hole in the shelter and then dropped an exploding fire bomb killing her children, her daughter Ghada amongst them, and the others hiding there. Her grief is raw as she questions why she is the only one to have survived.
The Iraqi-American woman tells of the anguish in watching the war on the television from New York post 9/11 as she worries about her relatives in Baghdad. She is baffled by the contradiction of Americans who work out in the gym or drink beer in the bar as they watch the war on CNN.
The set design by Pam Johnson easily transforms the stage from a country stream to an artist’s studio to a bombed-out shelter. The small venue adds to the closeness the viewer feels to the actor. For non-Arabic speakers, it is helpful to read the glossary of terms in the theatre programme before the play begins as it aids in understanding several scenes during the play.
The play originally premiered at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival and then went on to play sold out runs in London and New York.