“No Director Needed”
Reviewer: Isaac Lim
Performance: 21 January 2015
Nassim Soleimanpour is not allowed to leave Iran.
He refuses to serve the army, and thus is not entitled to apply for a passport.
He writes a contemporary play that messes with theatre conventions.
It gets translated into 15 languages.
And tonight, he is here at the Esplanade Recital Studio.
This is a show with no director: the actor reads the script for the first time and the cold read IS the performance. This is as raw, and exciting as it gets.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit, by Soleimanpour, is presented at the M1 Singapore Fringe Festival as a festival highlight; and with four talented and/or popular actors performing each night, the show promises to enthrall audiences.
And this reviewer wasn’t disappointed.
The opening show features theatre veteran Lim Kay Siu, who is welcomed on to the stage holding a vial on one hand and his personal water bottle on the other. He receives a sealed envelope containing the script from a staff member of the festival.
He promptly reads the content.
What ensues is an hour-long performance packed with surprises, mysteries, (unintentional) comic moments, and opportunities for the audience and the actor to think about life, and about theatre.
Soleimanpour is at once very far away and very present. Lim reads the script aloud, carefully following every instruction and dutifully carries out the respective actions as directed/written. White Rabbit Red Rabbit, essentially written as a first person narrative, works on both the actor’s performance and the audience’s spectatorship. It is highly interactive, with audience members being “volunteered” in the script to perform certain tasks on stage. Every audience member is duly acknowledged in the space as the script called for a number off. The divide between audience and actor is never quite clear.
In the opening “demonstration”, a man acts as a rabbit, visiting the circus to watch a show, which has Lim playing a cheetah acting as an ostrich. Soleimanpour later explained that the circus was an analogy for the theatre: that Lim is “acting” as the writer “acting” a character.
The show then begins to throw up various confusing notions and uncomfortable possibilities, all within the safe confine of the theatre space. The vial Lim brought with him contains arsenic, or rat poison. It is then emptied into one of two glasses of water on stage.
The playwright then explains how he is kept away from the performance, both in terms of time and space. He wrote the piece in 2010, in Tehran, and mentions that Facebook access is limited and the Internet is very much policed. He even invites audience members to email him, and he will be happy to chat on with them after the show is over.
Soleimanpour is a master of words, although he says that it is challenging for him to be writing in English. He manages to provoke laughter and incite fear in the audience.
In the final scene, a volunteer takes over the reading, and Lim follows the directions in the script, drinking from one of the two glasses. He lies on the stage floor and the audience is then asked to leave the theatre.
This performance of White Rabbit Red Rabbit is cheeky and fun. There was a large group of enthusiastic students present in the audience tonight which made the show even livelier. As I left the theatre, my mind was running wild with the many ideas thrown up in the show, having been entertained and intrigued.
An experiment with one actor, one playwright, one script and no director, resulting in a unique experience that can never quite be replicated ….
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ABOUT THE PRODUCTION
WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT by Nassim Soleimanpour (Iran)
21 January 2015, 8pm – Lim Kay Siu
22 January 2015, 8pm – Pam Oei
23 January 2015, 8pm – Benjamin Kheng
24 January 2015, 8pm – Karen Tan
Esplanade Recital Studio
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.