It’s a play with a different actor for each performance. There’s no director, no set and no rehearsals. It examines the social phenomenon of obedience while inviting us to think about oppression, freedom and words. And it has rabbits in the title.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit (WRRR) is a show spawned from the imagination of Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, who at 29 was forbidden to leave his country after refusing military duty as a conscientious objector.
“The play works on a beautiful metaphorical level,” explains Ardith Boxall, artistic director of Theatre Projects Manitoba, which is presenting the show. “It is about theatre as much as it can be seen as being about the constructions of our societies. It encourages us to question our conventions of authority, our own willingness to be obedient, to be passive and to do what is expected of us.”
Despite the heavy subject matter, the play is not overtly political.
“Soleimanpour’s script has laughter and sadness, movement and stillness, despair and hope. It has metaphors, it has symbols, and it has secrets. I can guarantee that Winnipeggers will have an undeniably unique experience,” Boxall says.
Soleimanpour wrote WRRR as his global instrument of communication – it allowed his words and message to travel beyond Iran’s borders when he could not.
“I loved the idea that an international play existed with the goal of connecting to performers and audience members in communities around the world. TPM makes intimate theatre and White Rabbit Red Rabbit is at its heart, a very intimate experience for everyone,” Boxall says.
Having a new actor each night ensures everyone is present and engaged in the act of theatre, Boxall explains.
“The actor has no previous knowledge of the script and must be a conduit for the playwright’s messages, words, stories and instructions to the audience. It is one night only and the audience gets a real, live experience, rife with possibilities, mistakes and spontaneity.”
Soleimanpour invites audiences to communicate with him by including his email address and encouraging people to leave their phones on during the performance. Some audience members even take notes that are emailed to the playwright.
A long list of local artists are going down the Rabbit hole, including Gordon Tanner, Sarah Constible, Sharon Bajer, Carson Nattrass, Tom Keenan, Shawna Dempsey, Toby Hughes, Jan Skene, Arne MacPherson, Fraz Weist, and Steve Sim. There will also be matinee performances featuring Ian Ross, Leith Clark and Loc Lu, and French performances including one by Cercle Molière Artistic Director Geneviève Pelletier.
“Each actor will be very different in tone, emphasis and impact. It will be a different show every night,” Boxall says. “I have heard repeatedly about productions around the globe having audience members attend multiple performances.”
For a complete list of actors and their performance dates, click here.
The play has been translated into 15 languages. Soleimanpour’s work has been awarded the Dublin Fringe Festival Best New Performance, Summerworks Outstanding New Performance Text Award and The Arches Brick Award (Edinburgh Fringe).
White Rabbit Red Rabbit runs Jan. 7 to 18 at the Rachel Browne Theatre at 211 Bannatyne Ave. Tickets range from $15-25 and are available by calling the Theatre Projects Manitoba box office at 204-989-2400 or by visiting www.theatreprojectsmanitoba.ca.