The boss sent me a message this week. Would I review a Hull Truck production? I think my reply was faster than the internet speed. Then came the production I was to view. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit. No, it’s not a tongue twister for when you have had too much to drink, it’s a well-known production.
So, I sat down on Saturday night with the laptop stream. First thing was an instruction NOT to switch your phone off. If you need to check your phone put the other hand on your ear so we can see you’re just checking your phone. Eh? Oh, didn’t I mention that this was streamed over Zoom?
The entire audience could be seen on their sofas with the microphone muted. If you need to pop to the loo during the production, simply put a bottle or something in front of the camera. Strange thing this Zoom lark. Oh, and like fight club; you don’t talk about White Rabbit Red Rabbit. Amazingly, despite this play being translated into 25 languages, and played around the world, actors and audiences keep the secret.
Well, the director introduced the actor and told us that the actor receives an email 24 hours before the performance, comes to the theatre with a drink and isn’t allowed to touch anything on the set. Oh and practice an animal impression. Here we have the performer not knowing what the gig will be (along with the audience on zoom). We are in for a treat with a spontaneous performance with the actor knowing just as much about what was to happen as we were.
Christopher came on, took an envelope from the producer and started to read. On came a stagehand or a buddy and was instructed to put a vial from the table into one of the two glasses of water on the table. Christopher wasn’t to look. We were told this was poison. Rat poison. My mind starts racing. What the heck?!
Christopher carries on reading and in reading, introduces the audience to the playwright. Nassim Soleimanpour is not allowed to leave his native Iran. He refused to do military service and so, is not entitled to a passport, which he tells us you can only receive once you have done the requisite military service.
Being a sort of rebel, Nassim is stuck and is using his solitude he writes a play in English, Christopher tells us and is then told by the script to be a rabbit going to the circus, you are stopped by a bear and asked for a ticket, also, you will need to wear a hat because those ears will block the view of the audience behind you. Cue the director selecting from volunteers in the ‘audience’ to be bear and rabbit. The rabbit person puts a hat on to cover his ‘rabbit ears’. ‘What the heck?’ Oh, I must be careful not to break the rule and talk too much about what happens.
However, it did take me 18 hours to process what I saw. I was sat thinking what the heck am I watching, but it was compelling and I didn’t want to switch off. My mind was watching and working out, is this Nassim telling of the oppression in his country without mentioning politics, if so, it was clever. Was he teaching us that we can become complicit in behaving badly because all around us do, was he telling us to stand up and be counted? Who knows? I couldn’t take my eyes off the screen. I was confused a little, but mesmerised, I wanted to see what was to happen. I think Christopher did too, remembering he has not seen the script either.
Nassim gave us his email address during the production and invited us to send a pic or tell him what we thought. We were invited by Christopher to make notes, which I did.
It’s an intriguing experience which lasts an hour. No longer. It may leave you like me; wondering what I had seen, and thinking about it all the next day. It may hit the spot with you. No-one knows how they will react. Be curious. See it and think about it.