News

An audacious theatrical experiment

By Gus McCubbing

Seymour Performers Workshop in association with Aurora Nova will be presenting internationally acclaimed White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour next month.

With no rehearsals, no director, a different actor each night, and a script waiting in a sealed envelope on stage, show producer Jai Cameron said White Rabbit Red Rabbit was an ‘‘audacious theatrical experiment’’ and a ‘‘potent reminder of the transgressive and transformative power of theatre’’.

Since its joint premiere in 2011, the play has been translated into more than 25 different languages and has been performed over 1000 times by some of the biggest names in theatre and film, including actors Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, John Hurt and Stephen Fry.

But the work has never been translated into Farsi, which is Mr Soleimanpour’s native tongue, something Mr Cameron said was indicative of the harsh political and social climate the playwright lived under in Iran.

An example of this is that Mr Soleimanpour, who provides his email address throughout the show, was prevented from leaving Iran to see White Rabbit Red Rabbit performed when it premiered in 2011.

‘‘I think some audiences could be confronted by some of the ideas and themes that Nassim brings ... but the show is quite funny too, with some great audience interaction,’’ Mr Cameron said.

And while Mr Cameron hopes both his actors and audience avoid researching White Rabbit Red Rabbit before seeing it, he said he was fortunate to have assembled four ‘‘ambitious and experienced’’ actors to take on the challenge.

Ryan Smith, Brett Harvey and Sean McKenna, who have all been involved in local groups SPW and Broadford Amateur Theatrical Society (BATS), will perform the show on different nights, along with Julia Lambert, who is based in Brunswick.

The process of selection, Mr Cameron said, involved giving candidates an unseen monologue and gauging their spontaneous reaction, which is critical to performing White Rabbit Red Rabbit.

‘‘We were sort of looking for people who were naturally good storytellers, because to some extent they’re not acting ... they’re basically voicing the writer of the piece. But they’ve never seen the script until they get up on stage to read it,’’ he said.

‘‘The script is quite funny, but also complex and intense ... so we were looking for all those characteristics in the one actor — that was our selection criteria.

‘‘It’s essentially a cold reading every night and it’s always going to be different, because each actor will bring their own interpretation to the piece.’’

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will be the first production Seymour Performers Workshop will present in the Schoolhouse Theatre at 50 Tallarook St, Seymour — a 40-seat space.

Tickets are available at www.spworkshop.org.au or by phoning 0490 459 853.

The performers will be: Ryan Smith on Saturday, July 7 at 7.30pm; Brett Harvey on Sunday, July 8 at 3pm; Sean McKenna on Friday, July 13 at 7.30pm; and Julia Lambert on Saturday, July 14 at 7.30pm.