Monday, January 15, 2018


In 2013 I wrote of Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit:

“Who does it serve? Initially, I thought, surely it is the country (Iran) itself. As the night wore on, I whittled this down to 'the individual', optimistically hoping for a Beckettian, Orwellian or Ionescoian argument. Finally, I was left with, sadly, only the writer himself.”

So it was with some hesitation that I approached the playwright’s latest project, which is simply titled after the playwright’s first name Nassim. Because I suppose that, if you were going to realise a self-valorising objective as an artist, you would create a play titled after yourself. Hmmm.

Almost a sequel to the globally successful White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, Nassim does a lot to elucidate that initial project. The audience arrives on the premise not unlike its predecessor: that they will see another play in which the script is read by an actor (an obliging Thomas Spencer for the premiere) who did not yet read it. However, a twist is thrown in while the house lights are still up: this time, the actor would be reading from a projected screen. Nope, wrong again. This time, we would be blessed with the presence of the playwright himself, as Soleimanpour is fetched by the actor and brought to the stage to wild applause.

Image: David Monteith-Hodge/Studio Doug

At which point, this really becomes the Nassim show. For a playwright (who sometimes have a year-long response time), Soleimanpour has a great sense of wit and timing when interacting in his second language, and the play proceeds through some entertaining modes of Farsi class, learning about each other’s lives, and storytelling – always returning to a faintly nihilist ‘what do we do next?’ moment hovering in the air. Through this, we are offered seemingly private information about the playwright, discovered through interactions with him via the premise of learning: we get to view his passport, we get to send a message to his wife, and we even get to speak with his mother in Iran.