Friday, 26 January 2018

Nassim, Jan 23, 2018 ****1/2

By Nassim Soleimanpour 
At Fairfax Studio Arts Centre Melbourne, until Jan 28, 2018
Reviewer: Kate Herbert 
Stars: ****1/2
Review also published in Herald Sun in print on Fri 25 Jan, 2018 & possibly later online (Lifestyle or Arts). KH

Alison Bell in Nassim
Theatre is usually based in artifice so, in Nassim, it is startling and compelling to witness the raw, unembellished truthfulness and genuine intimacy of a totally unrehearsed actor and the humble presence of the playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour.

Named for Soleimanpour, an Iranian now living in Berlin, this startling, funny, cunningly wrought script also features him as an off-stage character whose hands are the only visible part of him projected on screen.

By the second half, Soleimanpour arrives on stage to exuberant applause, although he remains a silent, but compelling partner for his actor.

As in Soleimanpour’s previous play, White Rabbit Red Rabbit, each night, a different performer reads and performs his script for the first time and, on Melbourne’s opening night, Alison Bell is the guinea pig who opens the box bearing her name, then follows his instructions.

She reads lines from a huge screen, tells Soleimanpour’s story and learns his native language, Farsi, as does the audience.

Although obviously way out of her comfort zone, Bell remains charmingly wide-eyed and compliant as she struggles to understand her role, waits for instructions and comments wryly on her predicament.

Soleimanpour is a warm, cheeky but provocative presence both on- and off-stage and, with silent, childlike giggles, he delights in teasing his actor with his tricksy, witty script that he gleefully reveals is 450 pages.

Nassim is naive, nostalgic memoir and childhood storytelling, but it is simultaneously a mischievous taunt at cleverly constructed plays and smug, actorly performances that rely on technology, rehearsal and slick direction.

Despite its empty stage and intimacy, Nassim uses technology including a live camera feed, screen projections, phone texts, family photos and even Skype.

We take our mother tongue for granted, but Nassim gently reminds us that other people’s languages elude and confuse us, twist our tongues and slip from our memories in moments but that, whatever our language, we share a common humanity.

Soleimanpour’s script is meticulously structured to predict twists or surprises, and the audience adores and applauds his audacity in a spontaneous standing ovation.

Other artists performing Nassim: Benjamin Law, Nakkiah Liu, Charlie Pickering, Catherine McClements, Denise Scott.

By Kate Herbert 
Alison Bell in Nassim

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