‘What happens when suddenly the homeland that produced and nourished every single cell making up a person’s body has slipped away?’
With a country focus on Afghanistan, Paris’s Théâtre de la Ville staged ‘The Empty Suitcase,’ or ‘La Valise Vide’ for three evenings, as part of its 2023-2023 season. Based on Kaveh Ayreek’s text, the theatre production tells the story of a young Afghan couple, Maryam and Hamid, returning to their home country after years of living in exile in Iran. Having fled with their parents at the start of the Afghan wars in the 1980s, Maryam and Hamid had no access to studies, work, or property, and required permits to travel across Iran. Living as second-class citizens in Iran, the couple decide to return to Afghanistan, a place which they have imagined, but do not know.
Directed by Guilda Chahverdi, ‘La Valise Vide’ explores the clash between Maryam and Hamid’s hopes and dreams to build a new life in Afghanistan with the reality, full of contradictions and challenges with which their imagined homeland presents them.
Theatre director, writer, and actor Kaveh Ayreek was present at Théâtre de la Ville on the days when ‘The Empty Suitcase’ was staged. Ayreek was five years old when his family fled Afghanistan to seek refuge in Iran. After receiving his education and training in Iran, he returned to Afghanistan where he produced award-winning mime and shadow puppetry productions until the fall of Kabul in August 2021. Since then, Kaveh has continued his work in theatre and performance art from Bergen in Norway, where he is one of the current ICORN residents. You can read Kaveh Ayreek’s ICORN resident profile here.