Review: Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran

theatre review (edinburgh) | Read in About 2 minutes
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Javaad Alipoor
Published 03 Aug 2019

A tanked yellow Porsche, metal guts exposed. Magnums of Bollinger, sprayed into air. A Rolex glinting under UV lights, soaked in champagne. These are the pictures of excess—excessive excess—studded through Javaad Alipoor and Peyvan Sadeghian’s deep-dive into Instagram’s super-rich and Iran’s corrupt elite.

Diving down a digital rabbit hole—#RichKidsofTehran—the duo emerge in a world of designer swimwear and dollar wads that’s entirely at odds with a strict Islamic regime. That’s the point. These are the children of revolutionaries who overthrew Iran’s Shah to install a more democratic, religious order. Corruption’s set in – sickeningly so.

But Rich Kids... is far more than a straightforward "j’accuse". It spins itself into a dizzying cultural critique like a staged Adam Curtis documentary. The thinking darts around, making connections too fast to draw conclusions, as presentations on wealth-portraiture swerve into studies of Tehran’s evermore exclusive, expensive shopping malls. Geopolitics gives way to geology, sociology to Paul Klee. The form skips too: storytelling, slide show, lecture, live Instagram feed. The audience splinters as our phones lag. Our attention spans short-circuit. That’s the internet: its information overload is another form of excess.

In that, Rich Kids... hits a sweet spot – both grossly queasy and pleasingly bewildering. The conspicuous consumption turns your stomach. It feels like an affront – a "fuck you" from afar. The speed of thinking is exhilarating, like chasing down some global conspiracy, as it accordions across time and collapses space. In the end though, the show’s too content to confound. For all it conveys a very contemporary dis-ease, Rich Kids... stops frustratingly short of a diagnosis, let alone a cure.