by John Waller
Cast - seven actors
1. Princess Ashraf: Beautiful twin sister of the Shah, born in 1920.
Ashraf: I was volatile, quick tempered, rebellious (and small)
and shared my father’s qualities of stubbornness, fierce pride, iron will.
CIA: forceful and scheming, eager to bring about the fall of Mossadegh.
2.1 Mohammad Mossadegh: Born in 1882 into one of the rich land-owning Persian families, he was an honest democrat, who was elected Prime Minister of Iran in 1951. He could mesmerize crowds by his speechmaking.
Ashraf: he was a Machiavellian genius, an intellectual, a fanatic, a demagogue.
2.2 Nossey: British Agent, aka “The Mad Musician” or “The Waltz King” for his passion for Strauss waltzes. He jabbers away in Persian, his English is eccentric.
3. Mohammed Reza Shah Pahlavi in 1941, at 21, succeeded his father General Reza Khan who had been elected Shah in 1925.
Ashraf: he was gentle, reserved, painfully shy.
CIA: a creature of indecision, beset by formless doubts and fears.
4.1 Dean Acheson: Mustachioed US Secretary of State to President Harry Truman.
4.2 Loy Henderson: US ambassador to Tehran.
5. Kermit (Kim) Roosevelt: (1916-2000) The grandson of Theodore Roosevelt was head of CIA’s Middle East Department. Kim Philby: “the quiet American … the last person you would expect to be up to his neck in dirty tricks.” Charming, shrewd.
6. General Walter Bedell (“Beedle”) Smith: CIA Director until Allen Dulles took over when Eisenhower became president in 1952. Blunt, action man.
7.1 Norman Darbyshire: Senior British SIS Operative. Suave and charming.
7.2 Bill Herman: Principal area director. Ex-journalist who, in 1946-7, covered the Azerbaijan crisis when the local communist Tudeh party attempted to set up a puppet state supported by Russian troops. A rough character.
The play deals with the initially positive reaction towards Iran by the Truman presidency, the paranoia of the Eisenhower regime towards the communist threat and then the coup itself.
Act One provides the background to the coup:
Scene 1: Mossadegh and Princess Ashraf argue over the former’s relationship with her father, the previous Shah – they are now enemies.
Scene 2: Ashraf challenges her brother to stop Mossadegh becoming Prime Minister. She is exiled.
Scene 3: In 1951, President Truman’s Secretary of State Dean Acheson is charmed by Mossadegh. In 1952, the British were kicked out of Iran.
Scene 4: In January 1953, General ‘Beedle’ Smith, CIA director, plans the coup with Kim Roosevelt who will execute it. They agree to bribe Princess Ashraf to persuade the Shah to support the coup.
Scene 5: In the South of France, to where she has been exiled and where she is in debt through her gambling addiction. Princess Ashraf agrees to go to Iran.
Act Two is set over 11 days in August 1953 in Bill Herman’s office in the US Embassy in Tehran. It concentrates on the coup through its failure at the first attempt to its final success:
Scene 1: Ashraf fails to persuade the Shah to support the coup.
Scene 2: Roosevelt threatens the Shah that he will leave Iran if doesn’t go along with the coup.
Scene 3: Roosevelt, Herman and Nossey celebrate the forthcoming coup
Scene 4: The royal decrees don’t get to Shah before he flies off to the Caspian.
Scene 5: Decrees arrive back by road.
Scene 6: First attempt at the coup fails.
Scene 7: Royal decrees stenciled for distribution, communists demonstrate, shah leaves country.
Scene 8: ‘Beedle’ Smith says come home, but Roosevelt refuses and tells
Ambassador to visit Mossadegh.
Scene 9: The Ambassador and Mossadegh have a row.
Scene 10: Coup succeeds.
Act Three deals with the aftermath of the coup:
Scene 1: CIA’s Gen. ‘Beedle’ Smith & Roosevelt plan next coup in Guatemala.
Scene 2: Mossadegh is sentenced to prison, here is his last speech.
Scene 3: Roosevelt looks back at the time of the Islamic Revolution.