Saturday, October 26, 2013

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit

With just how little can one make a piece of theatre? With a word? An empty space? An agreement? Perhaps a single metaphor is enough.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was written in 2010, one year after the 'Green Revolution' that swept Iran, by an Iranian playwright who cannot leave his own country. It takes the form of a part appeal, part wide-ranging monologue from its narrator, writer Nassim Soleimanpour, employing the voice and body of a different actor each night, who has never read the play - on Thursday night played by dramaturg and Israeli national Ariel Nil Levy.

House lights on, and somewhat awkward introductory formalities over, the actor opens the envelope and begins to read. We are immediately addressed by the author of the play - lamenting his English skills, describing his surroundings, and giving occasional instructions to the actor.

Cue a suite of meta-theatrical devices, shaped in a kind of 'load the gun, fire it, repeat' loop, which call attention to how theatre functions whilst acting as loose metaphors for the context of the writer.

Given that the writer lives in Iran, it's a surprisingly amicable text. Where it would have been perhaps accurate, given, say, the brutal crackdown in the wake of the 2009 protests, to offer the audience a violent silence - we get a surprisingly generous monologue, hinting at some ideas relating to human behaviour under oppression, occasionally calling on the audience to participate, ever-careful never to put us offside. Occasional precarious moments - a list of the methods of suicide and the prevailing metaphor of the 'red rabbit' - are never left long enough for the audience to dwell on them. Essentially, it's a series of set-ups, a cycle of call and response, wheeled out one-by-one throughout the course of the evening.