Nalân Burgess’ family story fleeing Cyprus forms part of new play CITIZEN that she stars in


A British mother is arrested while visiting family overseas with her baby daughter.

A family of political refugees are moving to Australia to start a new life.

American citizens, working, travelling and holidaying around the world, fall victim to Trump’s executive order against citizens of seven Muslim countries, and can’t return home.

They are all human. They are all Iranian. Their only crime: their ethnicity.

CITIZEN is a powerful new play exploring the experiences of Iranian refugees and migrants. This universal tale looks at the blurry line between our identities as humans and ethnic types, and when we stop being seen as one or the other.

It’s written and directed by Sepy Baghaei, who won Best Production with Short+Sweet Sydney in 2012, and is produced by Suitcase Civilians. Baghaei heads up the award-winning theatre company, whose previous productions have been described as “innovative…the alternative theatre experience you’ve been waiting for” (Upstaged on RE: Memory).

On the inspiration to create the show, Baghaei says: “The show was borne out of my frustration at the case of British-Iranian mother Nazanin Zaghari-Ratcliffe. She’s been imprisoned in Iran for almost two years, unable to return home to London. Her experience is one that is familiar to many Iranians, including my own family, yet I’ve never seen a piece of theatre addressing the issue of Iranian migration. So I decided it was time to share our story with a London audience.”

British Turkish Cypriot actress Nalân Burgess (House of Salem, Essex Boys Retribution) is one of three main actors in the ensemble play for CITIZEN, each playing multiple roles. She forms part of a cast and crew whose Middle Eastern roots include Iran, Turkey and Israel.

T-VINE asked Baghaei about Nalân’s role and its relevance to non-Iranian audiences. She told us:

“Although it is primarily about Iranian refugees, I really wanted to celebrate the multicultural nature of the cast and the fact that migration stories from all over the world have many similarities. As such, the play features elements of Nalân’s family story as a Turkish Cypriot – her dede and nene fled Northern Cyprus and migrated to England. We also use a Turkish song in the piece, ‘Benim Memleketim’.” 

British Turkish Cypriot actress Nalân Burgess, 2018



CITIZEN premieres at The Space theatre in East London on Tuesday, 24 April, and runs for two weeks.

Theatre Details


Dates: Tuesday 24 April to Saturday 5 May 2018

Start time: 19.30

Venue: The Space, 269 Westferry Road, Isle of Dogs, London E14 3RS

Admission: £12 / £10 concessions.

Tickets: Buy tickets online from the venue