Javaad Alipoor, writer and co-creator of Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran, debuted the show, which is the second of his trilogy, at Edinburgh this summer. The series of shows are concerned with the intersection of contemporary politics and digital technology and explore these issues in complex and interesting ways.
I began the interview by asking Alipoor what the audience should expect from a unique show such as this. He told me that his show is “political and contemporary”, also joking that “sometimes people don’t expect it to be funny, but it’s 64 minutes long, and I don’t expect you to sit through that without a few jokes.” He also informed me that the show is very interactive, and features a fictional Instagram feed.
The first in the trilogy, The Believers Are But Brothers, received critical acclaim, including a great review from The Mancunion. It was also adapted into a BBC programme. Alipoor described this show as dealing with the rise of archaic identities such as masculinity, race, and religion. Rich Kids leads on from issues explored in the first production and focuses more on consumption, capitalism, and extreme wealth.
When I asked Alipoor about his views on the use of social media, he stated that Instagram, Snapchat and other visual social media apps can tell us a lot about the human struggle to understand ourselves. He also told me that Rich Kids deals with the conundrum of why rich and powerful people never fight off the temptation to show off their riches even when it can be damaging. Alipoor explained that humans are not good at understanding the fall of a country or regime, climate change, and why you shouldn’t show off your cash.
Regarding the significance of centring the show around Tehran, he told me that it tackles the persistent Eurocentric perspective of the west. For example, discussing the Rich Kids of Iran as opposed to the Rich Kids of Saudi Arabia fends off these established stereotypes.
Alipoor stated: “I always find it slightly depressing that political shows are called state of the nation; I want to make state of the world shows.” When I asked him about his inspiration for the show, he told me that he didn’t really have any particular inspiration, but that as a political artist he is “interested in the world around me.”
As for the message and purpose of the show, Alipoor expressed that he likes to think that his work “talks about political problems that we are all tangled up in” and gives these issues a “shape,” whether they are about climate change, the growing gap between the rich and poor, or social media. The show gives a new shape to these topics in that they can become pub or bar conversations. Drawing on the reception of his first show, Alipoor recalled an anecdote about “these incredible chats in the bar where folk would be like what the f*ck are we going to do about this?!” in response to the issues he raises in his shows.
As a final question, I asked Alipoor if he had started working on the final show of the trilogy, and whether he could give The Mancunion some insight. He told me that there are still some ideas bubbling around, but he suspects it will have something to do with conspiracy theories. He also added that his company will probably announce one or two projects before the third show; projects such as community work, adaptations of traditional plays, and films.
Be a part of this engaging, thought-provoking, and political show at HOME, Manchester. Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran will be running there from 23rd October – 2nd November.