By Nassim Soleimanpour
Presented by Silo Theatre
in association with Aurora Nova Productions
Q Theatre, Auckland | July 1-13
Okay. If you’re even remotely thinking of attending this play, stop reading now. You will have an experience unlike any other you’ve had at the theatre before, and it’s one that I would prefer not to spoil. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is profound, moving, and entirely accessible to an audience that’s willing to give it the attention it deserves. If you have even the slightest inkling to see it, close this tab, buy your ticket, and go experience it for yourself.
For everybody else—as in those who can’t see it, or have already seen it, or flat-out don’t want to see it—continue on.
I frankly don’t know how to review Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. It is as much as play as it isn’t a play. It is a play insofar as it has been written to be performed in a theatrical space, but it’s more of a communal experience between the actor and the audience. The premise is simple. The actor hasn’t read the play and has no idea of what he or she is going to perform. The play is in an envelope onstage. The actor opens it and simply reads.
I’m not going to disclose what happens in the play. To do so would be a disservice to Soleimanpour’s work, which is working hard to develop the relationship between text and the audience. I wouldn’t say that it requires an audience going in blind, but my experience of the play was greatly heightened by staying as blind as possible, and then was enriched by reading up as much as I could about the play afterwards.
The main idea Soleimanpour discusses is a heavy one: obedience. Whether it’s an audience’s obedience to an actor, or the basic rules of the theatre we’ve all learned to abide by, or a citizen obeying their government. He interrogates why we’re obedient, why we might reach out from under that obedience and what happens to those who don’t reach out. It’s heady stuff, and the way he deals with it is totally accessible and gripping; you don’t come to terms with this after the theatre when you talk about it with people, you understand it right there. It’s immediate.
It’s a play I really want to see again, just to see how a different actor interprets the text and how a different audience reacts to it. There are specific performers that Silo have on the roster that I would give an arm or a leg to see, but they’ve cleverly kept very hush-hush who is on what night, so I didn’t know which actor would be performing until they walked out onstage.
Silo has to be commended in general for putting this play on. It doesn’t take a lot of investigating to figure out some reasons; it’s not a particularly expensive play to do, but it’s also a play that goes with the Silo brand: it’s pushing the boundaries of what theatre can do and it’s another example of Silo bringing an international play to a willing and wanting Auckland audience.
If you intended on seeing this play and have read this far, shame on you! But still go and see it. You won’t be disappointed.