NO director. No rehearsal. No advance sight of the script. Only a brief list of instructions sent to the actor in a pdf by the producer 48 hours before the performance. Novel indeed.
“An actor’s nightmare,” suggested Black Treacle Theatre producer Jim Paterson, “but an audience’s dream.”That said, Maurice Crichton, Lara Stafford, Maggie Smales, Alan Park and today’s two performers, Sonia Di Lorenzo (matinee) and Sanna Jeppsson (evening), were intrigued to take on the one-off challenge of a 70-minute script, each for one solo performance, passing on the baton without a word to the next in line.
CharlesHutchPress had been expecting to see Maggie Smales on Thursday, but when he chanced upon Lara Stafford in Micklegate on Wednesday, after his plans to attend the Aesthetica Short Film Festival launch or Teenage Fanclub at Leeds Brudenell Social Club came to nought, the reviewer resolved to review her that night instead.
Both were in the dark about what would unfold. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit was written in 2011 by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, when he was forbidden to leave his native Iran, but the play was designed to travel the world in his place; words without end.
Enter Lara, to be handed an envelope by Jim Paterson. Let the journey into the unknown begin, and quickly it emerges that this will not be a solo performance, but an immersive one with plenty of audience involvement.
Both on stage and off, in the case of your reviewer, who ticked the box for having a notebook to hand, at the writer’s request, to take notes…and subsequently send him an email as evidence of the night’s performance.
Without giving too much away, the tone of the piece turns from jocular to darker, bleaker, graver, a gradual switch handled well by Stafford, whose performance elides from playful to no messing about, this is serious.
More experimental performance art than play, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit does not call on Stafford to develop a role, a character, but to be a mistress of ceremonies, a malleable conduit through which the script will pass in a series of tests.
Not only her comic skills come into play, but her prowess at orchestrating an audience, as she would do in her physics teaching career too.
Above all, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit testifies to the power of the unexpected in theatre, when actor and audience are equally surprised and on edge, each reliant on the other for what will happen next.
White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, Theatre@41, Monkgate, today at 2.30pm and 7.30pm. 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). Running time is approximately 70 minutes.