On the 3rd April 2016, British-Iranian charity worker Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe was arrested at Tehran’s Imam Khomeini airport. She was attempting to return to the UK with her infant daughter. 510 days later, Nazanin is still detained in Iran, held with unknown charges. Her 3-year-old daughter remains with her grandparents in Iran. Looking for Mummy is the story of those 510 days.
Focusing primarily on the perspective of Nazanin’s husband, Richard Ratcliffe, the play covers the confusion over the initial news, the exploration of all legal routes available, and the letters and news received from Nazanin herself. It is impossible to not sympathise with their situation as events escalate and an increasingly despondent UK government refuses to respond. With a projected clock counting the passing of each day overhead, it is frightening to see how quickly time has passed for the family. The most heart wrenching moments come with the news of Nazanin’s physical and mental decline while in captivity (a captivity so cruel the UN has ruled it to be torture) and the ways her infant daughter has been affected, growing up in a distant country, having little contact with either parent.
It is no surprise this play has been longlisted for the Amnesty Freedom of Expression award, with its brilliantly engrossing storytelling and outstanding performances. The actors do a commendable job of portraying the real-life characters in this tale: from Richard’s confusion and frustration to Nazanin’s resilient hope to be reunited with her family. Furthermore, the incorporation of actual footage of marches and memorial events in London is extremely effective at reminding the audience how very real it all is.
As shocking revelations unfold, it becomes clear that none of the governments in this story are heroes. Looking for Mummy will make you angrier with the present UK government than any stand-up comedian at Fringe could manage. But this play is about more than anger. It is about hope and freedom. It is about awareness of the plight of Nazanin and other dual nationals held hostage by the Iranian government. Midway through the play, during footage of a march, we see a woman with a pram, the baby holds a sign saying ‘Are You Listening?’ We are now.