by Samantha Riches
Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s production stands out from any other at Behaviour Festival 2012 just as it had done at the Edinburgh Fringe Festival in 2011 and other festivals previously.
An actor is invited on stage to perform from a script in which they have never read from before. This unrehearsed, cold reading of a script written by a young man of whom the actor has never met before makes it all the while an interesting (and at times hilarious) experience for both the audience and actor.
On this particular evening it is Adura Onashile who is reading from Soleimanpour’s text. She steps out on to the stage confidently, albeit seeming a little nervous at what is awaiting her on paper.
The script is presented to her in an envelope at which she opens. It is then that the fun begins. As she begins reading, Soleimanpour’s voice fills the room. Instructing, guiding.
Each audience member is given an individual number which, at first, doesn’t seem too important. However, as the play progresses, different numbers are called to the stage to take part in what is described as an experiment; not a piece of theatre.
What follows is a White Rabbit, a Red Rabbit, some politically influenced ideas which surrounds Soleimanpour and his country as well as a number of other things which keeps both audience and actor on their toes throughout the whole performance.
Our actor is pushed and pulled in a number of different directions, as are we the audience.
Two glasses of water sit on stage from the beginning until the end, but once a supposed poison is added to one of the glasses by a member of the audience, what eventually unfolds is a choice that the audience then has to make.
A lot of what this play is about is manipulation and the choices we make, as well as how they affect others. As the audience we are told by Soleimanpour that we have to take some responsibility for what may or may not happen to Onashile as at the end we are told to tell her from which glass she has to drink from.
Could it be that throughout the performance, the glass we know to contain the alleged poison actually isn’t even that glass anymore? Is it the other one? Either way, the actor has to drink one of the glasses. Or does she?
We are left asking ourselves a lot of questions. Is this actor about to commit suicide? Will we be responsible for this possible suicide? We will never know as we are told.
Onashile brings humour to the evening’s performance as she takes reading an unrehearsed script in her stride. She brings great wit and hilarity to a situation most would find uncomfortable. At times she seems genuinely surprised at what Soleimanpour is asking both her and the audience to do.
Overall, if you didn’t get your chance to see White Rabbit, Red Rabbit this time round, then there will perhaps be other opportunities in the future. It is perhaps one of the most unusual production concepts that any British festival has ever seen.