I was going to write this piece yesterday but I needed a day to ruminate before embarking on this blog. One of the reasons I didn't want to attend the Adelaide Fringe this year was because after performing at every festival since '96 I was craving new adventures and experiences. Next week I fly to the Middle East to perform for our troops and we'll talk about that later here and also on my podcast "Can You Take This Photo Please?" On Sunday I returned to Brisbane for a performance of the play "White Rabbit, Red Rabbit". This is a one person play written by Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour, a conscientious objector who refused to take part in military service and was not (until recently) allowed to leave Iran. The play is written in English and requires no director, no set and a different actor for each performance. The challenging aspect to this play is each actor receives the script for the first time as you walk onto the stage. I had no idea whether it was funny, dramatic, romantic or absurd. You discover the play at the same time as the audience. Sometimes you're ahead of them. At times the audience was ahead of me. It was a truly unique and exhilarating experience.
One of the aspects that I love about stand up comedy is that I think it works best when you're in the room with the performer. There are very few DVDs or audio recordings of stand up that work for me because of the distance that these formats can't help but be enforce. I know I am in the minority with this belief but I have struggled mightily to focus on many stand up shows when I watch them on TV even though I know what I am watching is usually very good. What I underestimated about the performance of this play is how interactive the audience turned out to be.
I am also rather at odds in knowing how to explain my experience without giving anything away. It truly is a unique experience that is highlighted by the unknown and to know too much would detract from it overall. For people in Melbourne there is going to be a season at the MTC and I would recommend booking your tickets as soon as possible right here.
I can tell you that it is an absurdist adventure with a time travelling writer who manipulates his surroundings from afar and makes you question a lot of your own thoughts along the way. Is that vague enough for you? At times I was asked to manipulate the audience and then my life was left in their hands. I had people yelling harsh commands with smiles on their faces while other punters begged me not to make a rash decision. At times I felt in total control of the room but by the end my life was in the hands of a woman I never had the opportunity to meet properly. There we were sharing the stage, a cute bouncy Scottish girl with a musical brogue, someone that I doubt I will ever meet again yet we shared an intimacy on that stage that lived and died in the moment.
The amazing aspect of the performance was how clearly the writer's voice filled the room. To be a conduit for his instructions and tales and questions was exciting. The preparation for the show was minimal, I had a few instructions I had to follow and that was it. I managed to ready myself for the gig by not thinking about the show at all, instead I cleared my head by playing solitaire for half an hour, red and black cards bouncing all over the screen of my smartphone. There was no point in thinking about it too clearly as all I would be doing is bringing presumptions to the stage. Whether they were correct or not wouldn't have mattered, it was just too much fun to let it unfold as the words escaped my mouth dictating my actions and delivery.
So this ends up being quite a vague entry but for people who like their theatre on the edge and ragged this is the show for you. A play that explains the emotion of censorship and revels in the manipulation of the audience and the performer, it leaves you alone with your thoughts and questioning the decisions you made in the moment. I have read that a few previous performers would love to give it another go but for me that would be defeating the purpose. My time with this script was with the audience in Brisbane and I don't think I will ever attempt to repeat the process. It would feel like cheating in some way.
A great night, a great experience and one that I continue to think about, Nassim's words trapped in my head, unable to escape, bouncing back and forth revealing more and more with the passing of each day. And for anyone who has seen the play: I drank the left glass without hesitation.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit
For another perspective on the play listen to Richard Fidler's interview with Nassim here.
26th of February, 2013