There are so many qualities about young Iranian playwright Nassim Solaimanpour’s WHITE RABBIT that I admired. The play’s brashness, quirkiness, innovativeness, to name just a few. And yet, in the end, it failed to satisfy.
The show starts radically and this sets the tone for the evening. A guy bounds onto the stage, carrying a large sealed envelope. He tells the audience that the show’s script is in the envelope and that it is to be performed by an actor, who has never laid eyes on it before. He then proceeds to call Alan Flower, from out of the audience, to perform the piece.
For the next sixty minutes or so the stage is Alan’s as he reads and performs Nassim’s play with the occasional help from members of the audience who are called up on stage.
The play comes across like a statement, a letter to the audience, with the playwright communicating from the Edge, the edge being contemporary, troubled Iran. Nassim tells us that he is a prisoner in his own country, with the government refusing to grant him a visa. It is through the medium of theatre that he has found a way to reach the outside world with his thoughts, and portrays a world subsumed with choiceless choices.
Where the piece fails is in its implausible dramatic premise. Early on in the play Flower walks across to a small table on top of which are two glasses, both filled with water. Into one of the glasses Flower empties a mixture which contains poison. Through the play, the glasses are changed around, and a tension is intended to be generated as to whether Flower will end up drinking from the wrong glass and collapse on stage, in front of our very eyes.
Seriously, is a sophisticated modern audience, even for just one moment, expected to believe this premise? Isn’t the play pushing the suspension of disbelief request just too far?! More to the point, why did Nassim believe his play required such a ‘heavy hand’?!
WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT was performed over four nights, between the 4th and 7th December at the Bondi Pavilion, each night with a different actor. It was great to see Alan Flower, TRS’s original Artistic Director, be the first to perform the work. Flower gave a clear, confident performance in what was obviously a difficult gig, having to perform such a complex piece, sight unseen, before a live audience.