So there’s a play and I’m not supposed to tell you anything about it. The plot? No. The set design? Probably not. Lighting?! Nah. The performer? Well it changes every night so that’s not going to help you. As for direction? There’s none.
So what can I tell you? Well for one it’s a Silo production. But after that – technically very little and I’ll be honest, I don’t want to give anything away. This situation leaves me, as a reviewer in a bit of a sticky situation. What the hell do I talk about? Do I even review it at all? But the fact of the matter is that I want to. I want you to read this and I want you to go and see it for yourself.
I’ll begin by setting the scene, or the rules should I say. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was written in 2010 by Nassim Soleimanpour (you’re allowed to know that). It’s a play, in one sense in that it requires an actor and an audience. The actor is not allowed to see the script until the moment he or she steps on stage. The audience will not know which actor they’re going to see until he or she appears on stage. Nassim never expected to be able to see it performed. No rehearsals, no direction, no expectations. It’s performance roulette.
On the morning I went the actor (victim) was Kip Chapman. The audience a bunch of actors and school kids. Matinees are always a strange experience. School audiences exude a bizarre energy and it’s that energy that I’m going to talk about. Because if I can’t tell you what I saw, I can tell you how it made me feel.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is different from normal plays as the rules create a sense of camaraderie between actor and audience. In what could be potentially quite an isolating and scary performance, Kip was by no means alone. The effect of this instantly casted my mind back to En Route. En Route is a guided tour of your city, you’re alone but every now and then a tour guide will appear to lead you to your next destination. Kip was alone on stage but he had the script and he had us.
This was important because the script at times dove deep and hard into questions of human being. Questions which according to Shane Bosher, Silo’s Artistic Director have had audience members leaping on stage to help the actor. It’s a bizarre experience. Being an audience member whilst simultaneously being an important part of the situation. It wouldn’t be as challenging if there wasn’t an audience. The story while important would change entirely.
Some audience members were obviously 100% there, but personally I still felt slightly removed, like an observer. Which is odd because the content challenges you to be more than that. Technically I drive against being a passive observer to the situations around me. But when called to act did I feel compelled? No, not really.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is therefore a bizarre journey. It’s the sort of performance where days later pennies will continue to drop, where each performance will not just be different in that it’s live on a different night but also in that it can only ever be performed once. Once you’ve seen it, you can never be in it. You can never perform more than once.
At the same time however, for the audience it’s a new experience every time. Sure, you’ll know the story but it’s a bit like Fight Club. Before I watched Fight Club for the first time I was told by a fantastic man, ‘Watch it twice.’ I didn’t understand and then the movie finished and the penny dropped. I watched it again and the meaning of it all totally changed, I spied things I hadn’t spied the first time, interpreted things with a whole different background of knowledge. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is the same.
Unfortunately for me, the season of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit coincides with mad rehearsal period. Nevertheless it’s my goal to attend at least one more performance. You should too. To paraphrase Shane Bosher and Kip Chapman – As movies get more and more real – 3D etc, there’s a danger that theatre becomes stale. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit reinvents the genre.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit runs until Saturday July 13th at Q Theatre. It’s selling out fast so I’d get in quick!
Oh and a note from me to you – Do not google this show before you see it.