Art And Culture

Language and Drama, All in the Timing

Travel & Environment Desk
Language and Drama, All in the Timing
Language and Drama, All in the Timing

You walk into a small but cozy hall and are mesmerized even before finding your seat, by the psychedelic music of the one-man band in the corner of the stage and two paralyzed actors waiting for a signal to break into motion.

You are at ‘All in the Timing’, David Ives’s masterpiece, and right here in Tehran.

What makes this piece unique? It is in the original language: English. The director, having studied English literature, came up with the idea of staging an English play when the translation fell short of her expectation.

Shiva Ordooi who enjoyed reading the original text while translating it, knew that the Persian version does not even convey half the joy to the audience.    

“I believe a translation of the work cannot do justice to the nature of the play,” she told the Financial Tribune.

Also, it focuses mainly on language and wordplay; so the true essence of the play is almost totally lost in the translation.

Being an English instructor for ten years, Ordooi also wanted an opportunity for language learners (or enthusiasts) to experience English outside the context of a classroom. “What can motivate learners better than using their knowledge in real life situations?”

Ives’ plays are frequently performed by high school or college students around the world due to their brevity and undemanding staging requirements. Ordooi opted for this work for the same reason, not wishing to bombard the audience with lofty dialogue or bore them to death by lengthy literary plays.

All in the Timing is a collection of one-act short plays but only three are mounted by the Iranian director. The music of the one-man band during intermissions is a pleasant interlude.

For Ordooi, this is just the beginning. She has founded the first professional English theater troupe called Shivana Art and wishes to keep mounting plays in the original language plus teaching through drama.

Despite over 15 years of experience in theater, casting for the play was not easy. Not many actors have mastery over English and fluent English speakers do not possess acting skills.

“I gathered a group of actors and non-actors who spoke English and held training sessions for the latter group.”

The non-professionals appear to have acquired the skill perfectly as one could not tell them from experienced actors. Also, with drama, a subcategory of literature, those who specialized in English literature suited the purpose well.


Occasional laughs from different corners of the hall indicate that the audience not only understands the dialogues, but also has a good grasp of the play’s humor. The viewers obviously identify with the characters, especially in the third episode.

Ives’ collection originally contained six short plays but eight more have been added in the updated version. The three episodes selected by Ordooi are ‘Sure Thing’, ‘Singular Kinda Guy’ and ‘Philadelphia’.

‘Sure Thing’ is a dialogue between a man and a woman in a café which keeps the audience amused as it is reset regularly by a bell ringing. ‘Singular Kinda Guy’, a mix of monologue and mime, is about a man who claims he is a typewriter. ‘Philadelphia’ digs into more philosophical, yet absurd concepts. It recounts the story of people trapped in anomalous pockets of reality.

Though unornamented and minimal, the costumes and set design clearly set the scene while leaving the details to the audience’s imagination.

The play opened January 9 and will run until Jan 22 at Gousheh Hall, Niavaran Culture House, Tehran.