Last week, I went to see Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran at one of my favourite place in Manchester, HOME. This show was co-produced by HOME with artist, director, writer and activist Javaad Alipoor. Read on to see my review!
What first caught my eye about this show was its title alongside the striking image in HOME’s brochure – it’s the image at the top of this post. “Who is this attractive man?” I thought. He looks like the type of rich kids I’ve come across on Instagram and wasted away minutes (maybe hours?) of my life peeping into all the rich kid things they’re wearing, doing and sharing.
True story: Mohammad Hossien Rabbani-Shirazi, was a “Rich Kid of Instagram”, living in Iran, during a time when the middle and working classes were struggling to afford basic everyday items. He also happened to be the son of a prominent Ayatollah and the grandson of a revolutionary hero. This rich kid, and his rich kid girlfriend died after smashing his yellow Porsche Boxer into a kerb at 120 miles per hour.
Their death brought huge attention to their Instagram accounts and the lifestyles they enjoyed – driving luxury cars, drinking and partying at nightclubs in Dubai, Antalya and West London. Rich Kids works backwards from the accident and delves into this story played out on Instagram.
This interview with writer of the show Javaad Alipoor explains more about the inspiration behind the show.
As audience members, we were advised beforehand to install the Instagram app. As a regular Instagram user, I was really intrigued to see how it would be used as part of the performance.
The story could very easily have been told without Instagram, but it I liked their decision to do something different, using it for audience participation. During parts of the show we were instructed to visit a specific Instagram account and follow the narrative being shared there. At other times, one of the performers did an Instagram Live stream – creating a very cool visual and audio echo / delay on our screens compared to what we were seeing on stage. There was also that slightly uncomfortable feeling being in a theatre space and actively using your phone.
This show is about way more than Instagram though. It was a history lesson, commentary on how contemporary culture is shaped by social media and a stark look at the future should we continue in our consumerist ways. All of this in the space of an hour!
I took friend who doesn’t use Instagram and isn’t a big user of social media. She was also unaware of the historical and political context of present day Iran, so this show was a huge education for her in more ways than one. We both really enjoyed the show. For me personally, it provided so much more than I was expecting and I really appreciated the use of social media as part of the storytelling.
You can catch this show at HOME until Saturday 2nd November. For more information and to book tickets visit the HOME website here.