PREVIEW: Layla Majnun – your heart will be on fire with this ancient Persian tale
Spoiler Alert: Layla and Majnun do not end up together. Like the characters of Romeo and Juliet - to which the story is most often compared - the two are dead at the end of this centuries old Persian love story. This is the only real comparison to Shakespeare’s’ tale, as I found out when I spoke to Ustaadh Feraidoon Mojadedi. He is the performer and a driving creative force behind a new production of Layla Majnun, set to open at the Subiaco Arts Centre in October.
The story that will be performed in a festival setting at the centre - with food trucks, and exhibition from Muslim artists and alcohol-free beverages - is an ancient Persian tale passed down through generations in many forms. Keeping with the oral tradition, Feraidoon takes the original written version, a poetic afterword and poetry by Rumi and creates a unique retelling of the story, weaving in life lessons and philosophical musings. This - he tells me over the phone from his home in California - gives an extra dimension to the classic tale.
For Feraidoon, the love that Layla and Majnun share is special precisely because they don’t end up together. "They put their love for their families and for their communities above the love they have for each other," Feraidoon says. “It’s a love that doesn’t seek to take from each other, but to give. Majnun even gives his intellect for her.” Which brings us to another important detail - Majnun is an adjective meaning ‘madman’, which is the way his community comes to refer to him when his love for Layla drives him into the desert.
Majnun doesn't fall in love and lose his mind over Layla on the basis of her looks, across a crowded room, but falls for her after spending a childhood together. Feraidoon refers to this as being “Romeo and Juliet on fire.”
“There are lessons to be learned here about how to find a spouse, but it’s not a preaching type of play,” is his take on the wisdom that has been passed down through the ages in this story. He shares the view of Rumi, that sometimes people just need to be reminded of who they are.
So if the end of winter has you feeling like you’ve lost a little of yourself, book in for a night of storytelling at Subiaco Arts Centre from the 2nd to the 5th of October.