Nassim: theatrical experiment at Perth Festival takes actors out of their comfort zones


Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.
Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour.

IT must be a terrifying, or liberating, prospect for a performer to walk on to the stage without doing a single rehearsal or minute of preparation.

Either way, that is exactly what seven guest artists signed up for during Nassim Soleimanpour’s season of Nassim presented by Perth Festival at Studio Underground this week.

For each performance a new actor steps in to the spotlight to be greeted by an unseen script they will read for the first time, in front of an audience because “life knows no rehearsal”.

The Australian premiere season from Iranian-born, Berlin-based playwright Soleimanpour follows his 2010 play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit (presented by Perth Theatre Company in 2014) which had a similar concept.

This time, the theatrical experiment follows a script that includes Soleimanpour’s mother tongue, Farsi, and examines the playwright’s childhood, love and family, focusing on his beloved mother.

The performer on review night was Perth actor, writer, director and dramaturg Humphrey Bower who said he was not scared, just curious about what was to unfold.

Soleimanpour is present and speaks little during the performance (when he does it is a highly powerful moment) but is in full control of his guest, through the use of technology, and those brave enough in the audience to volunteer to participate at one point.

Language can be a great device to divide humans but it also connects us and that is what happened between Soleimanpour, Bower and the audience during the production, which covered the full spectrum of emotion while going on this autobiographical journey.

Humour, heartache and vulnerability are at the forefront of Nassim and on leaving the show there is a feeling of overwhelming honour to have experienced this incredibly special evening at the theatre.

If this sounds intriguing, then you would be correct, but unfortunately there is little more detail this reviewer wishes to divulge for fear of spoiling the magic created by a man who was once forbidden to travel out of Iran and has never been allowed to present one of his works in his birth country.

Nassim means ‘breeze’ in Farsi and just like the joy of one arriving on a hot summer’s day, the world is all the better for having people like Soleimanpour travel to their city, bringing some relief from all that is wrong.

Nassim is showing as part of Perth Festival at Studio Underground until February 25.

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