“Star-studded rabbit circus”
Reviewer: Isaac Lim
Performance: 16 January 2016
This is not the first time this reviewer is catching White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour. (You may refer to my previous review here.)
On my second visit to this circus, I am still surprised by some of the elements in the show. For one, the Mandarin translation of the text feels refreshing. However, something is lost in the translation: that linguistically-predetermined connection with the playwright.
Renowned radio presenter and actor Dennis Zhou Chongqing helms this Mandarin edition and I must admit that his charm makes this rather didactic play much more tolerable.
Zhou presents himself confidently on stage, and engages with his audience easily. His experience as a radio presenter comes through in his delivery of the lines, especially the long narratives. At times, it is easy to forget that Zhou is playing the writer/character Soleimanpour because he recites the stories like he often does on radio.
The most important aspect of the theatre-experiment that is Rabbit lies in audience participation. And Zhou’s popularity among the local media scene and the easy rapport he has with his audience makes the show feel like a fan meet-and-greet. Enthusiastic audience members proactively take part in the roll-call, as well as answering any questions Zhou read from the script.
This edition of the play can certainly be considered the most star-studded. Apart from spotting many local celebrities and even political figures in the audience, Zhou also handpicks his co-actors from the long-running television soap 118, to join him on stage when volunteers are required.
At the climax of the play, when an audience member is supposed to take over the narration, model-actress Sheila Sim stands up and read the lines. Audience members are clearly excited as they are busy snapping shots of the on-goings on stage.
That said, the Iranian playwright’s work is probably beginning to lose its relevance. Soleimanpour has left Tehran in February 2015, and is now travelling around the world to tour his new works. The theme of being controlled no longer resonates with the audience, and the supposed surprise element appears to be just a performance device. Still, this edition is very much enjoyable because Zhou’s wit and charm make it a fun theatre-going experience.
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT by Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran)
13 January 2016, 8pm – Munah Bagharib (Performed in English)
14 January 2016, 8pm – Neo Swee Lin (Performed in English)
15 January 2016, 8pm – Udaya Soundarl (Performed in Tamil)
16 January 2016, 8pm – Dennis Chew (Performed in Mandarin)
Gallery Theatre, National Museum of Singapore
ABOUT THE REVIEWER
Isaac Lim is a third-year Theatre Studies major at the National University of Singapore who enjoys bustling in all-things-arty, gets crafty, and indulges in being a foodie.