15 March 2018

Nassim

A few weeks ago, I found myself back in the English Theatre Berlin. I haven't been here in a while, and this time, I decided to come back to see a performance of Nassim, a new play by Nassim Soleimanpour. In the past, I have seen White Rabbit Red Rabbit, and was rather impressed. So I figured I'd watch this one as well.

He reuses a major fixture that he has used in White Rabbit Red Rabbit: the actor that performs the play hasn't seen the play before, and there should be a different actor for every new performance. For that night's performance, choreographer Jacalyn Carley was performing, and of course she hasn't seen the play before. Given this setup, the "play" takes on interesting twists and turns.

For example, there's a lot of reading. There is plenty of paper being projected on to the screen, in regular font and in italics, with italics signifying sentences that shouldn't be read. It feels more like a reading of a play, but not in an awkward way. What is more surprising is the use of real and unexpected elements from the audience, from people not in the room, as well as from the actor herself. At one point the audience was asked whether they have some gifts for Nassim. At another point, the playwright (who ends up eventually joining the actor on stage, but has a non-speaking role) calls his mother on the phone. There's plenty of elements in this play that are anchored on the here and now, as opposed to being simply a performance of an event conceived in the distant past.

There are plenty of issues that this play tackles. Language difficulties (there was a language lesson at some point), homesickness, family, and empathy. If White Rabbit Red Rabbit was more adventurous and tackled social pressure, this piece was more heartfelt and emotional. As The Herald said, it is "a strikingly gentle, humane and emotive consideration of the experience of an artist living and working in the diaspora." If you have the chance to see it, by all means do so.

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