August 21, 2017

Review: Dublin Fringe Festival-WHITE RABBIT/RED RABBIT

White Rabbit/Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour-Dublin Fringe Festival 2012-The New Theatre

The playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, lives in Iran and is unable to leave the country because he does not have a passport. Passports are only issued upon completing mandatory service in the military and as Soleimanpour did not complete his service he remains in Iran. There are many like him. Instead Soleimanpour is letting someone else tell his story for him though it will be the first time they are hearing it themselves. Each night a different actor takes the stage. They are handed the script in a sealed envelope. Their only previous instruction was to have two glasses of water a vial containing poison on a table on the stage. There is no director. There is no set, although the other instruction was for a ladder on the stage.

The actor opens the envelope, takes out the script, and the play begins. Soleimanpour introduces himself. He asks the actor to also introduce himself. Soleimanpour is clever and witty taking into account the endless possibilities of what could possibly happen with a performance he has no control over. An audience member is asked to pour the poison into one of the glasses, he does, and while the actor reads on the audience is instructed to close their eyes. Giving, of course, an opportunity for the glasses to unknowingly be switched. Soleimanpour begins with a story about a white rabbit that goes to the circus. The rabbit arrives and is stopped by a bear who asks for his ticket but the rabbit does not have one so he cannot go into the circus. Here Soleimanpour instructs the actor to have two audience members come up on stage to play the bear and the rabbit. The play cannot go on without the audience’s cooperation. The story of the white rabbit evolves as he is given a euro from an audience member so that he can have a ticket. But the bear still isn’t happy and says that the rabbit needs a hat to cover his big ears because someone sitting behind him won’t be able to see. An audience member gives a scarf and now the rabbit can go to the circus. In the circus there are dancing cheetahs pretending to be ostriches. The circus is chaotic and nothing is what it appears to be.

Soleimanpour writes about his uncle who raised rabbits and experimented with their psyche by developing a reward system in which the rabbits had to climb a ladder to get a carrot. The winning rabbit would be painted red while the other white rabbits are punished and soaked in cold water. Eventually the other white rabbits would attack the red rabbit despite there being no carrot and having not been soaked in cold water. Again audience members are instructed to act out the rabbit winning the carrot and when the audience member wins the carrot they are berated since they know the other rabbits will be punished. Soleimanpour writes that his uncle once called him in the middle of night saying, “I shot him, I shot the red rabbit.” His uncle took his own life a few days later.

The actor is now instructed that he will have to drink one of the glasses of water, quite possibly the poisoned one, and perhaps he will die. He is to sit on the stage and put the script down so that an audience member can read the end while the actor drinks the water. The actor must choose which glass he thinks is safe. There is a huge debate amongst the audience as suddenly a man’s life is at stake. He chooses a glass, drinks, and is instructed to lie down while the audience member reads to the end.

Soleimanpour bravely rebels in the only way he can, through his words. It is an imaginative endeavor bringing the audience to him as he cannot come to us. He takes us out of our world for a mere hour and asks us to ponder what his life is like so many miles away.  At one point in the play Soleimanpour gives out his email address asking audiences to write to him, though he cannot guarantee whether his address will still be valid or if he will still be alive. He promises to write back if he can. I wrote to him but have yet to receive a response.

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