WHITE RABBIT RED RABBIT.
Conceived and written by Naseem Soleimanpour. Performed at The Mill Theatre by Jay James-Moody. Wednesday February 15, Thursday February 16, Saturday February 18 Thursday February 23 and Friday February 24th 2023. An Aurora Nova and Lexi Sekuless Production. Co-=roducer and operator Zeke Chalmers. Major partner Elite Event Technology. .
Reflections by Peter Wilkins
Theatre has many mansions. Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit. Red Rabbit is a bold and significant attempt to challenge and confront actors and audiences to unravel and interpret the emotional, physical and intellectual impact of certain types of human behaviour. If this may sound rather vague it is meant to as it reflects the theatrical convention of Soleimanpour’s writings and dramatic construct.
Let me explain. Soleimanpour describes his work as an experiment, rather than a play. An experiment is a process of trial and error in pursuit of a phenomenon and final analysis through hypothesis, performance and observation and concrete analysis. So, what are the facts behind White Rabbit Red Rabbit? An actor (Jay James-Moody) is invited to perform the play. The audience is given no prior knowledge about the play. They know that the writer is an Iranian, forbidden to have a passport and therefore resorting to sending his play to other countries and most specifically the Edinburgh Fringe in 2010. A google search will reveal his ethnicity and his age, but nothing of the plot or action of White Rabbit Red Rabbit. It is no mystery, but an exercise in observing, interpreting, intellectualizing, emotionally experiencing and arriving at conclusive analysis.
What is important to know is that prior to entry into the intimate Mill Theatre, neither the actor nor the audience must have any prior knowledge or expectations of the performance. The play has no director and no rehearsal. So, let us examine the phenomenon. The audience enters the 67 seat theate through the stage to takes their seats. On stage they will observe a table with two glasses of water stage right, a chair stage centre and a ladder upstage left.
|Jay James-Moody is The Actor|
The actor enters. This is experienced actor, writer, director and producer James-Moody’s first appearance in Canberra. He is the only actor. On the chair is a sealed envelope. He knows that he has to take the envelope, open it and read the enclosed script to the audience. The script contains a comprehensive set of stage instructions which the actor must read aloud and either perform himself or engage particular audience members to enact. The rest is a new and unique experience for every audience member and for the actor. It requires an actor with intelligence, spontaneity, appeal and insight to peel away the many layers of meaning and symbolism contained in the writing. James-Moody is both extremely personable and capable of engaging his audience, exciting their curiosity and inviting participation.
The play ends and the audience leaves the theatre. If the experiment has succeeded opinions will flood their minds with their interpretations of the various stages of the experiment and their perception of the probable meanings contained in the hour long performance. James-Moody’s assured presentation of the writer’s intent should leave little doubt as to the meaning and the effect of Soleimanpour’s specific directions. The actor remains alone in the empty space. It is time for all participants to recover and reflect.
As for the actual content of directions that remains for new audiences to experience afresh. There is no intention to trick or confuse. It is an imaginative device, akin to improvisational theatre, but it is no gimmick. In fact for the thinking theatregoer White Rabbit Red Rabbit is serious and significant theatre. All that is needed is the ability to look, to listen and to learn. Then the conclusions reached will be inescapable. Will you care? Hopefully. Will it change the way you view the world? Not necessarily, but it may remind you of what you hold most dear.
All good theatre in its many diverse mansions will inform and illuminate the human spirit. In the intimate Mill Theatre , producer and artistic director Lexi Sekuless has taken quite a risk staging a work that challenges convention. As well as actor James-Moody, Sekuless has engaged PJ Williams, Stefanie Lekkas, Elliott Cleaves and Zsuzsi Soboslay to perform during the short season. Each actor requires the skill and personality to achieve the writer’s intentions and succeed in leading an audience to an awareness of Soleimanpour’s themes and messages.
Sekuless is a producer with vision and the courage to present theatre that dares to challenge while also entertaining audiences. Not every experiment succeeds. In the case of White Rabbit. Red Rabbit Sekuless has succeeded in bringing a work to Canberra that is new to audiences, challenging for actors and a thought-provoking advocate for change.