Arts Centre Presents NASSIM

The novelty of first greetings turns into a unifying experience

By Leeor Adar

Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour returns with NASSIM after the very successful run of White Rabbit Red Rabbit series, which globally had some exceptional actors take a leap of faith without rehearsal to perform before an audience alone. Translated to 25 languages, White Rabbit Red Rabbit had a unifying effect on all who embraced the performance, whether as the audience or the actor. NASSIM has a similarly unifying effect, and due to the nature of the performance, I cannot reveal the contents of the piece, but I can unpack its meaning and impact for those like myself who experienced it.

In this Melbourne run at Arts Centre taking place over 5 nights, a new actor will appear each show to perform Soleimanpour’s piece. The play straddles between the hype of its mystery and the pure communal joy for those who find themselves connecting with it. I myself did not know what to expect, other than the fact that an accomplished Australian actress, Alison Bell, would be arriving on stage on this particular evening without prior reading of the script, or a rehearsal. That in itself requires enormous trust between actor and audience. The audience must come armed with openness and faith in the actor, and the actor in turn must submit themselves to the experience in a way that strips them bare of ego or expectation – the only currency here is trust.

Language is the central feature of the piece, and its power to alienate and bring people together is what drives NASSIM. So much of what informs the piece is Soleimanpour as its writer; a man once forbidden from leaving his home country of Iran sets his writing free across the globe. A theme that pervades the piece is the need to connect across continent and time to a sense of place and home. Soleimanpour evokes memories within us all, memories that most of us share in common, no matter our origin.

NASSIM is heart-warming and unexpected. Bell herself was frequently blushing with emotions ranging from joy to amusement. Bell brought a playfulness and candour that suited the piece perfectly, and the audience went on the journey with her which provided a communal and fun-loving energy in the theatre. When the performance was over, my friend and I turned to each other brimming with something completely positive.

NASSIM is such a choice way of taking the novelty of first greetings and turning them into a bonding experience for audience, actor and playwright alike. I have no doubt that the coming performances will have a similar impact on their audience.

Dates and times:
Wed 7:00pm 24 January feat. Benjamin Law
Thu 7:00pm 25 January feat. Charlie Pickering
Sat 5:00pm 27 January feat. Nakkiah Lui
Sat 7:30pm 27 January feat. Catherine McClements
Sun 5:00pm 28 January feat. Denise Scott
Venue: Fairfax Studio, Arts Centre Melbourne
Prices: $40 – $50
Photo credit: Mark Gambino