A thought-provoking artistic experiment, Not I Theatre’s production of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit plays with the traditional in an interactive play that breaks the fourth wall.
Forbidden to leave his native Iran, Nassim Soleimanpour wrote a play that travelled the world in his place. The play asks its actors to perform a script entirely off-the-cuff with only an animal impression prepared before they walk on stage. When actress Josie Charles appeared, her nerves were palpable. After the show, Josie told London Student of her excitement at having taken part in the play and her fresh-cheeked enthusiasm certainly came across during her performance. You could sense in her the eager energy of someone who was ready to go on the journey created for her by Soleimanpour, a willing conduit between writer and audience.
Newly formed from the student drama scene, Not I Theatre focuses on cultivating space for new and unique voices. The raw nakedness of Soleimanpour’s script and the intimate relationship it creates with the audience was a great way to showcase the company’s ambition. Some might feel that the production was too bare for comfort, but I felt the simplicity of the space worked. The room was stripped of props aside from two glasses of water and a mysterious container of white powder placed on a table, and the famous travelling script propped up on a chair. Simply viewing the script sparked excitement amongst the audience. Hidden away in a brown envelope with only the actress’ name on it, this mystery would unravel a wonderful piece of metatheatre.
Revealing the plot of the play is tricky because there isn’t really a plot. It begins with the writer addressing the audience through his conduit, as someone wanting to create art that means something to people; it is not merely a political rant written by a “fucking terrorist” stuck in Iran, but an artistic piece about identity. With lines such as “it’s just me, you and the audience” or “you have the right to exit this stage but I will remain among these sentences”, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit toys with the possibility of overlapping temporal existences as its writer directs his artistic power without stepping foot anywhere near the stage.
The script instructs Josie to pick out a member of the audience to pour the white powder into one of the glasses of water (at the end of the play Josie has to decide whether or not she will drink the potentially poisonous liquid). This begins a series of little games completed at the behest of Soleimanpour’s script. At one point in the play, I was called up to interact with Josie along with a few other unsuspecting audience members. We were tasked with competing to be the Red Rabbit, representative of Soleimanpour’s idea of the original thinker. The quest to be a Red Rabbit, to stand out, is a secret desire among many of us, and by the end of the night the atmosphere in the room was spine tingling.
After the play had finished, the audience were asked to send Soleimanpour a selfie of themselves imitating rabbit teeth, and throughout there was an emphasis on carrying on the tradition of sharing his words. The main message I took from the play was that “the glass may or may not be poisoned, knowing is not the point, what matters is possibility, the not knowing.” This production raised a lot of questions, and while it didn’t flow neatly to a conclusion, I am happier for walking out having been made aware of life’s plethora of possibilities.
The Lion and Unicorn theatre has recently been revived to showcase leading independent talent in the arts community. If you want cheap tickets, a cozy pub vibe and quirky productions, don’t miss their upcoming shows. My top pick would be Glitter Punch which has built up a reputation to be a beautiful and delicate love story. For more information on Not I Theatre, visit their Facebook page.