Accompanied by an Iranian and Mauritian meal, Neda Rahmani's incredible stories emerge over the course of an evening.
Neda Rahmani. Image by Ferne Millen.
Cherry, Cherry: A Dining Room Tale is a performance interwoven with a dining experience staged by our fabulous host, Neda, in collaboration with writer, director and performance guru, Xan Colman. An audience of thirty strong joins Neda to enjoy a typical meal of Iranian and Mauritian food, all organic and mostly home-grown.
To begin with we gather in a small room in the Northcote house, full of costumes and musical instruments, to socialise over a glass of wine and hear some introductory comments from Neda.
In fact, this pint-sized dynamo of a woman, with a massive abundance of curly hair bursting from each side of her beautiful face, hardly needs to speak. She radiates so much joy and vitality that her audience is already mesmerised and there isn’t a mobile phone or iPad to be seen for the rest of the evening.
As Neda explains to me at the end of the night, this is the outcome she wants to achieve. Cherry Cherry is partly a response to Neda’s concern that people are relying too much on technology and television for their entertainment and losing the art of listening, verbally communicating and becoming entranced by storytelling.
Neda’s story begins with her arrival in Australia, as a babe in arms, with her Mauritian mother, Iranian father and sister who have to flee the Iranian uprising. The story has all the joy and pathos typical of most families, but the resettlement of such diverse cultures in a new land brings added problems for the parents. Fortunately, Neda’s mother trained as a speech pathologist who inspired her daughter’s love of language. Visits to the markets at Christmas time brought a burst of ‘cherry, cherry!’ when young Neda first discovered the cherries she loved so much that they became the title for this evening we were enjoying.
Neda’s relationship with her father was difficult at times but she still remembers him with affection as a man who loved music and did most of the family cooking. She points out the amazing red Iranian saddle seat, which he brought to Australia and was formerly used on donkeys and horses, and the beautiful drums hanging on the wall.
Moving to the long dining table, we are spoilt with a delicious yet simple meal of lentils, crunchy Persian Barberry rice, salad and beautiful fresh vegetables. As we eat, other stories emerge about the techniques this generous young woman uses to engage perfect strangers in conversation and bridge those awkward gaps that prevent communication. Australians are fortunate to have new citizens who bring with them traditions and culture from other countries, and we are privileged if they choose to share them with us, as Neda has done in this original way.
Back in the music room, Neda treats us to a spectacular Iranian dance performance which would make a whirling dervish proud and then supplies us all with musical instruments with which to accompany her singing.
While percussion, dance and song-writing are Neda’s main interests, her use of colourful costumes produce another sought-after show called Neda’s All Colour Project, which she has performed with groups of musicians in the Spiegeltent in Brisbane, Canberra and Sydney. They were the only performers engaged to represent Australia at the AIME (Asia Pacific Incentives & Meetings Expo) earlier this year.
Neda’s performances are unique and supported by Multicultural Arts Victoria and A is for Atlas, an independent Australian performance company.
The spirit and generosity of this unique evening, in its third year, is a rare gift for the people who attend. I can only say book early to make sure you don’t miss out.
Rating: 4 ½ out of 5 stars
Cherry, Cherry: A Dining Room Tale
Written and composed by Xan Colman
Performed by Neda Rahmani with Marrs Coiro
Private venue, Northcote, Melbourne
14, 15, 16, 28 and 29 March.