Bangalore Mirror | Just One Voice from Iran
No director. No rehearsals. No sets. The play White Rabbit Red Rabbit opens the Pandora’s box about the world we live in but with a disclaimer
The biggest nightmare for an actor is when he or she is instructed to get on stage, is given a sealed envelope with a script inside and is asked to perform. (It isn’t the writer’s analysis calling it a terrifying experience, it is an admission by the producer who has watched the play earlier in a different country). A script sent from another country, hasn’t been opened before or read before the shows begin. There is no director and there were no rehearsals. This nightmare for an actor has been witnessed by audiences across the globe and at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival. Starting tonight, four of Bangalore’s and one of Chennai’s seasoned theatre actors will be going through this experience of performing the acclaimed play White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.
The story is about Nassim, who was the 29-year-old Iranian citizen who didn’t get a passport to travel out of his country. This denial of his right to a travel document was a consequence of his refusal to serve in the army. Yet this play is not about the autocratic system of government of that particular country. Jagriti Theatre where the play will be staged has posted a disclaimer on their site that clearly says: This play is NOT overtly political, and should not be portrayed as such. It operates on a deeper, metaphoric level, and very expressly avoids overt political comment. Any allusions to it being anti-government could, quite literally, endanger the playwright’s life.
As a corollary the play is likely to open a world of imagination – Nassim, the playwright’s world. It is about him and about his dialogue with people of the world. No rehearsals,no scriptreading, no sets–the idea is absurdly challenging for traditional theatre practitioners. The only instructions to actors are given two days prior to the performance – to prepare an animal impersonation. “I have been asked to wear comfortable shoes and yes, prepare an animal impersonation,” says Kaveri Lalchand, veteran actor from Chennai’s theatre circuit who will be opening the show tonight. “I don’t know much about the play. People (Rajiv Krishnan from Perch Theatre in Chennai and Vivek Madan, producer White Rabbit Red Rabbit) who have watched the play have asked me not to think too much and go with the directions in the script,” she adds.
While the actors are gearing up for the solo performance, the audiences will in turn be instructed like the other audiences have been during earlier shows in other countries. On stage will be a ladder, two glasses of water on a table and a chair. What happens later is a big suspense. White Rabbit Red Rabbit promises to take everyone present on a fantastical flight of the real world that Nassim had experienced. “Your virtuosity as an actor comes through this play. The playwright has placed trust in the performers,” says Jagdish Raja, who will be performing on Sunday and will get to watch only one other show. The actors cannot watch performances before their show and cannot perform again. It’s just one chance; a one take for them to explore, discover and present. “It’s a shot in the arm for actors to improvise and at the same time, it is a great opportunity for an intelligent and observant audience to see how it is done, it is a great process of discovery.”
The profoundness of the idea (reaching out to the world through a play) juxtaposed with his situation of being confined in his own country is what Nassim lucidly presents through his play. The story is of the past. Today, the playwright who is in his early thirties has a passport. He has travelled across the globe and has watched the play and has interacted with the audiences during the shows, he chooses to leave the script unchanged. It is the virtue of his play to ponder over the fact of being confined in his own country but let his mind speak, travel and strike a dialogue with audiences across the globe. Now it’s the turn of actors in Bangalore.
“It’s exciting but also scary. We don’t know anything, the only thing we know is that this person is sending a script with a mandate. It’s interesting to explore the idea of creative control,” says Kirtana Kumar, who will be performing on Friday. Ostensibly it appears as if Nassim has no control, but starting this evening, with every performance, the secret will be unveiled.
Read as it appeared in Bangalore Mirror here.