March 25, 2017

Breaking basic boundaries

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit gives voice to playwright Nassim Soleimanpour all the way from Iran

In the play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, one actor receives the script for the first time at the very beginning of the show. They then start to read — solo.
In the play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, one actor receives the script for the first time at the very beginning of the show. They then start to read — solo.
Photo: 
Queen’s drama professor Kim Renders came out of sabbatical for a one-night only performance.
Queen’s drama professor Kim Renders came out of sabbatical for a one-night only performance.
Photo: 

I wasn’t expecting that.

When I first heard the play title White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, I thought I was in for an evening watching a play about jovial forest animals.

Well, I was partially correct.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit isn’t like any other play you might have seen before.

In fact, if you haven’t seen this play before, you should stop reading here or risk spoiling it for yourself. The show, put on in the Vogt Studio with the support of the drama department, is a one-actor production. Also, this actor doesn’t get to see the script until the start of the first show.

The victim on the opening night of the show was Queen’s drama professor Kim Renders, who took a break from her sabbatical to do this show. The next three productions of the show will feature other drama professors, including Craig Walker. She was given strict instruction not to read anything about the play beforehand in order to make herself a blank tableau for the material. Renders was handed the script at the beginning of the show after the audience was seated and immediately started reading the lines given to her on the page.

Nassim Soleimanpour, the playwright, breaks the fourth wall in the theatre by speaking directly to his audience using the chosen actor as a mouthpiece for his words in the script. The author communicates to us that he’s home in Iran where he’s barred from leaving.

Soleimanpour’s words made me giggle at certain points and at other times had me unable to take notes because I was so gobsmacked by what he was saying.

The beginning of the hour-long show featured Renders acting out a scene involving a white rabbit, a bear as a security guard and a crow police person.

Confused? So was I.

But this comically dramatic ordeal helped to put the audience at ease before Soleimanpour delivered his final message.

Through the retelling of his uncle’s practice of making rabbits compete against each other for a carrot, the playwright whispers a deeper message into the ears of his audience — a message of competition and the way people will fight for what they want.

Soleimanpour requested audience number themselves at the beginning of the show. When the time came, some numbered audience members were able to aid Renders in playing the roles of the rabbit and the bear. In a show that was otherwise largely played by ear, this was one part I felt was contrived. The chosen audience members seemed like they had actually rehearsed beforehand.

Renders delivers the final message of this script with finesse and skill, much like the rest of her performance. Soleimanpour may be limited to leave his country, but his play allows for his voice to be heard on a world stage.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will run until tonight with performances at both 7 and 8 p.m.

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