White Rabbit, Red Rabbit hops into Melbourne

In fairness to every actor who will perform White Rabbit, Red Rabbit and to every one who will be in an audience of a production, this is spoiler free. But, even still, please only keep reading if you’ve seen it, performed it or are Nassim Soleimanpour.

Wait, if you’re thinking of seeing it, the answer is HELL YES.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit.  Malthouse Theatre.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. Malthouse Theatre.

When Nassim Soleimanpour was 29, he was living in Iran and didn’t have a passport. He wrote White Rabbit, Red Rabbit to feel a sense of freedom.

It’s not an especially well-written piece, but it has the audience in its paws from the first moment. A lone actor performs, but they don’t see the script until they walk onto the stage, pick it up and start reading.

So you can see why there’s an obligation to not write anything about it. Too much of the experience is about the actor discovering each new word at the same time as the audience. For those who saw An Oak Tree in 2008, this has a similar conceit, but the Tree had the writer on stage with the performer.

Like Tree, the actor can’t do Rabbit again. And the more it gets performed, the more likely that actors have seen it or know something about it, which will leave them out of the running. Since 2009, it’s been translated into many languages and performed all over the world. There’s always an empty seat in the front row for Soleimanpour. And he has seen it.

But Rabbit’s not about getting distracted by the writer’s personal story and the history of the work; it’s about discovering the text and story with the actor – and the audience are a vital part of this discovery. How often does an audience know as much as the performer and are as important to the writer as the performer is?

Having audience members who have seen it before will also impact a performance. Not that this will stop people from seeing it again. I’d have happily gone each night to see Rodney Afif, Alison Bell, Alan Brough, Shareena Clanton, Daniela Farinacci, Ming-Zhu Hii, Bert LaBonté, John Leary, Caroline Lee, Brian Lipson, Catherine McClements, Genevieve Morris, Brian Nankervis and Sam Pang perform.

But even if I do go again, it will never compare to the moment-by-moment discovery of the first time.

I saw Alan Brough. I was 82, my purple hat was a red hat and someone had a carrot.

And this is Nassim Soleimanpour’s email: [email protected]

Anne-Marie Peard

Anne-Marie spent many years working with amazing artists at arts festivals all over Australia. She's been a freelance arts writer for the last 10 years and teaches journalism at Monash University.

Anne-Marie Peard

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