wed 23/10/2019

Edinburgh Festival 2019 review: Rich Kids - A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran | reviews, news & interviews

Edinburgh Festival 2019 review: Rich Kids - A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran

Edinburgh Festival 2019 review: Rich Kids - A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran

Confusion reigns in an overly ambitious take on technology, time and climate catastrophe

Javaad Alipoor and Peyvand Sadeghian in Rich Kids: attempting to make sense of an information overloadPete Dibdin

You can’t question Javaad Alipoor’s ambition. Ancient Mesopotamian empires, geological layers of chicken bones, the half-life of polysterene cups, Thomas Gainsborough, Susan Sontag, Iranian political history, gold iPhones, mallwave – all that and plenty more gets crammed into the mere hour of his breathless Rich Kids: A History of Shopping Malls in Tehran at the Traverse. And that’s even without mentioning the wordy narration, video projections, Instagram feeds, live video and multipanelled set he employs to get his ideas across.

It all leaves you more than a bit bewildered. And indeed, if Alipoor’s intention had been simply to baffle and overwhelm you with an excess of information – and of ways of receiving that information – then Rich Kids would have married form and content to brilliant effect. But no: Alipoor has a story to tell, and it’s an important one to understand. It’s about how huge historical forces have shaped the Middle East over millennia, and how an obsession with emulating European values has led to the cocaine-fuelled, champagne-quaffing, Instagram-obsessed offspring of today’s Iranian elite. It’s about how our rampant consumerism is ravaging our planet. And it’s about a coked-up car crash in Tehran, Alipoor and co-performer Peyvand Sadeghian’s starting point.

It’s difficult not to be impressed by Alipoor’s magpie intellect as he flits from topic to topic, establishing unexpected connections between the remotest issues, restlessly zooming in and out of temporal perspectives to see his story across geological ages. But keeping track of where he’s got to is another matter entirely.

And top of the show’s issues is its reliance on Instagram – a nod, naturally, to the carefully curated images of rich kids’ lives of excess in Iran and around the world, but far more problematic in the context of the show. Download the app and you can participate in the performance, scrolling through images as the performers discuss them, and even watching a live stream of what’s happening on stage in front of you. Great ideas, but they only add to the confusion – whether that’s flipping between a smartphone screen and the live stage, or processing a dense polyphony of voices as dozens of mobiles all around you repeat what’s being said on stage, all microseconds out from each other.

As a theatrical embodiment of excess and confusion, Rich Kids is a sprawling, chaotic masterpiece. But as a dissection of history, of shifting cultural attitudes, and of our impact on the planet and on each other, it’s got some way to go.

Add comment

Subscribe to

Thank you for continuing to read our work on For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a gift subscription?


Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters

Advertising feature


A compulsive, involving, emotionally stirring evening – theatre’s answer to a page-turner.
The Observer, Kate Kellaway


Direct from a sold-out season at Kiln Theatre the five star, hit play, The Son, is now playing at the Duke of York’s Theatre for a strictly limited season.



This final part of Florian Zeller’s trilogy is the most powerful of all.
The Times, Ann Treneman


Written by the internationally acclaimed Florian Zeller (The Father, The Mother), lauded by The Guardian as ‘the most exciting playwright of our time’, The Son is directed by the award-winning Michael Longhurst.


Book by 30 September and get tickets from £15*
with no booking fee.