Nassim follows on from Nassim Soleimanpour’s famous White Rabbit Red Rabbit, even built in the same format – every night a different actor steps on the stage to discover the script alongside the audience. However, in this instance the context has significantly changed. In White Rabbit Red Rabbit, Nassim was forced to send his play out to grow legs of its own because of his inability to leave Iran. This lent the piece a sense of political, theatrical urgency that gave electricity to the fiction. In Nassim’s case this same necessity isn’t there – Soleimanpour actually comes onstage for ‘Act 2’, almost as if to draw attention to the differences between his current and past work, despite the similarity in form. And while there are some lovely moments, the electricity that came with White Rabbit Red Rabbit is missing, leaving a lovely, slightly twee exploration of language and the meaning thereof.
The piece centers around a storytelling feel, one that hearks back to childhood nostalgia and motherhood in a charming dialogue with the audience. This is lovely and comforting and does the obligatory tugging at the childhood heartstrings. However, one does wonder why Soleimanpour keeps returning to this particular form of theatre when it continually refers back to his political imprisonment – even when this is not the focus of the text. This means, subconciously, there is always a contrast to White Rabbit Red Rabbit which (in this case) is at the detriment of the present story. It simply cannot compare.
This isn’t to say the performance and the script aren’t good; they most definitely are. The whimsical nature of the piece stands in stark contrast to his earlier work, and despite the uncoached performer onstage we feel very safe. He talks about missing his mother in an intensely personal way, we empathize with language issues and giggle when the interactions with the performer reveal their ignorance. It is very friendly stuff, but it doesn’t really say anything profound. Brilliant for walking away with a rosy feeling, but I wouldn’t necessarily call it explosive theatre.