A sole actor enters the stage, nervously clutching a script he has never read before. He flips to the first page, clears his throat. “Here goes.” So begins White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, a conceptual theatre piece written by Iranian playwright Nassim Solaimanpour. Each night a fresh actor is summoned to the stage to play the lead, having never read the script and with no idea what is in store for them. Plenty, it seems.
At times, Nasim has the actor running around the stage flapping his arms, an onstrich being chased by bears. At others he addresses the audience directly through the actor, solemnly telling us about his home, his life. There are moments of silliness; Audience members are invited on to the stage for silly interactive role-plays. We are left feeling strangely close, even protective, of Nasim, and solemnly wondering where he is now. Fantastical stories and personal anecodotes allude to the dictatorial system around him, without seeming prescriptive. We are forced to muse on the role of the writer, political anonymity and the nanny state.
Finally, a challenge is set the actor. Early in the piece, a vial of poison has been placed into one of two identical glasses of water. The actor must decide whether to risk his life and drink one of the cups, bringing the imagined into stark reality. Will he drink?
The stage may be sparse, but White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is positively brimming with ideas.
The Horse’s Mouth is a festival of autobiographical theatre at the Bondi Pavilion in Sydney, finishing 14 December.