AN actor’s nightmare will be an audience’s dream, promises producer Jim Paterson, when White Rabbit, Red Rabbit makes its York debut from tonight (7/11/2023) to Saturday at Theatre@41, Monkgate.
This groundbreaking play requires the actor to perform the script having never seen it before setting foot on stage.
Originally written in 2011 by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, who at the time was forbidden to leave his native Iran, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is a play designed to travel the world in his place. Whereupon the audience will join each different performer on a journey into the unknown.
Soleimanpour’s 70-minuite play has been performed all over the world by actors such as John Hurt, Whoopi Goldberg, Nathan Lane, Martin Short, Sinead Cusack and Dominic West, all taking to the stage with no prior sighting of the script.
Now White Rabbit, Red Rabbit receives its York premiere at the hands of six actors, each performing the script for one performance only. “They will never have seen the script until I hand them an envelope to open as they enter the stage,” says Jim. “They are told almost nothing in preparation. There is no rehearsal or director.”
Given that the play relies on no-one knowing the plot, details cannot be shared in advance, and so audience and actor alike will be in the same position of not knowing what will happen, duly creating an “exciting and truly unpredictable show”.
“One of the best things about going to the theatre is that it’s a live experience where each performance is different and unpredictable,” says Jim. “Times that by 100 and you’ve got this play. Both the actor and the audience don’t know what’s going to happen from moment to moment, which I think will create a really exhilarating atmosphere.
“Each of our six actors is only performing the play once with no preparation – so each performance will be entirely unique for that audience. That’s why we’ve put on a ticket offer, so that you can come back to watch another actor perform it for half-price, and see what will be an entirely different take on the play.”
Jim adds: “A lot of us have had that dream where we’re suddenly in a theatre and are expected to go on stage in a play when we don’t know the lines or what we’re supposed to be doing. So, I’m massively grateful to these performers for agreeing to take the leap and make that scary dream a reality!”
First to step into the unknown tonight will be Maurice Crichton, stalwart of York Settlement Community Players and much else besides on the York theatre scene. “I think it’s going to be about the audience experiencing an actor being surprised by what they’re in, and – to an extent – vicariously experiencing those feelings themselves,” he says. “It excites me to see if I can relax enough to do the play justice!”
Fresh from Settlement Players’ Government Inspector, Sonia Di Lorenzo will perform the Saturday matinee. “I’m looking forward to finding out what it’s about,” she says. “It sounds really intriguing from what I know of it – which is just the title! I’m excited to see how it unfolds and what it entails and where it’s all going to lead.”
Sanna Jeppsson will take on the Saturday night challenge. “It’s exciting and scary because I don’t know how I’m going to react in the moment: what my body’s going to feel like, what my pulse is going to be doing, what my breath is going to be doing – I just don’t know! But I’m very interested to find out,” she says.
Presented by York company Black Treacle Theatre, in association with Aurora Nova, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit will be performed by Maurice Crichton tonight; Lara Stafford tomorrow; Maggie Smales, Thursday; Theatgre@41 chair Alan Park, Friday; Sonia Di Lorenzo, Saturday matinee, and Sanna Jeppsson, Saturday night.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, Theatre@41, Monkgate, York, November 7 to 11, 7.30pm plus 2.30pm Saturday matinee. Box office: https://tickets.41monkgate.co.uk. Tickets are £10 full price and any ticket buyers for one performance can see another one for £5 (plus booking fee).
Did you know?
BLACK Treacle Theatre produced Nick Payne’s Constellations in March 2022 and Gary Owen’s Iphigenia In Splott in March 2023, both at Theatre@41, Monkgate, York.