‘When we go to another country, what is it that makes it feel strange and what causes us to feel foreign? The food? The smells? For most, I suspect, it is language. Being unable to speak a language renders us literally speechless.’ (The Guardian)
This idea of language as a way of belonging or feeling at home is explored by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour in his worldwide hit play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit and now his latest creation NASSIM. Like his earlier work, NASSIM sees a different performer taking to the stage each night without having rehearsed the show or even seen the script. Each performer discovers the show at the same time as the audience, leading to a real sense of connection – you’re going on the journey with the actor, willing them to do well in their task of discovery.
It could be quite daunting to perform in NASSIM but our guests are taking it in their stride.
Matt Dyktynski, a NIDA-trained actor and one-third of mix94.5’s Clairsy, Matt and Kymba Breakfast team, said he was very excited to play his part. ‘It is quite humbling to know that every performance of the play is unique,’ he said. ‘I’m hoping to not stuff it up.’
San Cisco singer and drummer Scarlett Stevens said appearing in NASSIM would take her out of her comfort zone. ‘As a musician I’m used to being prepared for gigs, rehearsing, getting up on stage and playing the same set night after night,’ Stevens said. ‘This will be completely out of my comfort zone. Not knowing what to expect from the play is terrifying and exhilarating at the same time.’
‘I think being a voice for a writer like Soleimanpour who has been censored and silenced by his country is both a privilege and a demonstration of the freedoms we take for granted in Australia.’
Perth-based South African author and activist Sisonke Msimang said: ‘I love the idea of approaching a script unrehearsed and I am thrilled at the prospect of spontaneously meeting the powerful words of Nassim Soleimanpour.’
Humphrey Bower, our Perth Festival 2018 Navigator, said he had read and heard a little about Soleimanpour’s work. ‘Having not seen White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, I’m excited at the prospect of opening the envelope and diving down the rabbit-hole!’
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was written in Iran and posted to the world because Soleimanpour was not allowed to travel. Now based in Berlin, the playwright can not only see his work but, in the case of NASSIM, actually perform in it, making this work all the more personal, especially in its exploration of language (it’s partly performed in Farsi) and migration. Audiences and performers around the world have been particularly moved by it. As our 2017 Artist-In-Residence explains:
‘I was in NASSIM as a performer, playing the role as it unfolded in front of me. I was so focused on delivering the script (which I hadn’t seen before) that I could not see the bigger picture of how the show worked or why it was so emotionally engaging and resonant ... but every single audience member I met afterwards absolutely loved it, many of them sobbing at the end. It was a surreal and beautiful experience.’