Nassim Soleimanpour, not allowed to possess a passport, is confined to his home country of Iran. And yet he has made his way to countries across the world, not through subterfuge or smuggling but through his pen and paper. “It tastes like freedom to travel to other countries through my words” he writes, and as I watched White Rabbit, Red Rabbit on the stage of the New Theatre, rarely have I ever felt the presence of a playwright so strongly.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is a play designed to be performed without director, set or, indeed, rehearsal. All that is needed is an actor – in this performance, Shane Byrne. Byrne, like all the other actors of Soleimanpour’s play, opens his sealed script in front of us to prove that this is a cold reading, a notoriously difficult thing to do. Charming and natural, Byrne is more than well able for the task.
Soleimanpour’s writing is straightforward but sensitive, and also very funny. Rather than use the fact of his confinement as the plot, he leads us around the ideas of morality, of choice and instinct through stories and some (obligatory) audience participation. Theatrically, Soleimanpour’s script makes us think about the presence of the author and the function of the actor, as he asks us to consider the power of the writer and the persona of the actor.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is one of those plays that you know will be talked about in years to come. And this is only right – as Soleimanpour tells the audience “you are my future”.