Edinburgh Fringe 2011
A new piece of Iranian experimental writing, delivered by a different fringe festival performer every day.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit is surely in possession of one the most distinctive production concepts of this year’s fringe. A different performer each day arrives at St George’s West to be presented with a script by Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour only to perform that script to a paying audience completely unrehearsed. Nerve wracking for all concerned, no?
For my particular encounter with White Rabbit Red Rabbit I was blessed without the company of Lucy Ellinson, this year a resident artist at experimental hub Forest Fringe. Whilst clearly filled with trepidation, Ellinson acquitted herself beautifully, confidently ploughing into the text, which went to great lengths to introduce writer Soleimanpour, a 29 year old Iranian man unable to leave his country due to his unwillingness to complete two years of national service. The written style of the play is witty and humane, the warmth of Soleimanpour’s narrative voice clearly apparent from the start as he consoles and teases the onstage performer and evokes beautiful images of the Iranian landscape that are very rarely described to Westerners.
What follows is a series of truly mind-bending narratives involving the titular Red Rabbit. On one level, absurdist nonsense with an unexpected reminiscence of Edward Albee and other American experimental writing of the 60s and 70s, these tales quickly unfold as political allegories – how willing are we to stand up for difference? How is the status quo maintained and passed down to future generations? Without any heavy-handed gestures the play manages to paint a vivid picture of a politically repressive society and ask some difficult questions.
What was particularly refreshing about White Rabbit Red Rabbit was that in this fringe where there seems to be a lot of ‘meta theatre’ – theatre that explores the practice of theatre making – it managed to be innovative and disruptive to conventional theatrical practice without losing connection to the real world.
Obviously, an experience somewhat reliant on the ability of a brave performer to deliver an unrehearsed script, White Rabbit Red Rabbit is brave piece of experimental writing and thoroughly deserving of your attention this fringe.