White Rabbit, Red Rabbit & the Cherry on Top

Imagine being hired for a job. You have been hired on the merits of your impressive past credentials. You are told when to come to your first day of work, (which coincidentally will also be your last day of work.) You are told there will be no on-the-job training, and no one will be present to direct your efforts for the day. In fact, you won’t be given any equipment or an office either. You will be handed your instructions in a sealed envelope when you arrive at work. Also, do not take a drink from either of the two glasses of water on the stool in your work space… one of them will very shortly be poisoned.

Written by Nassim Soleimanpour, and produced by The Elbow Theatre Society White Rabbit, Red Rabbit debuted in The Cultch Theatre’s Vancity Culture Lab on Wednesday 19th, September. Carmen Aguirre was the first in a series of eleven actors to be playing the role of “Actor” in this unusual show.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is a play with no sets, no director, and no rehearsals. Itai Erdal, founder of The Elbow Theatre Society introduced the show and handed Aguirre a sealed envelope containing the script. Through clever and thoughtful writing Soleimanpour leads the actor and the audience through a complex allegory about rabbits, ostriches and bears (oh my!)

Soleimanpour’s voice as the playwright is the closest thing to a main character in the show. He explains that as a young Iranian man unwilling to participate in the mandatory national military service, he is unable to leave his home country. He writes White Rabbit, Red Rabbit as his incorporeal method of travelling the world; where his play goes, he goes. Through allegory and narrative Soleimanpour explores heavy themes such as censorship, the past creating the future and the future creating the past and death by suicide. However, interjections of his brand of humor (visual observations of his unseen audience and salty or incongruous language) keep things from feeling heavy handed or preachy.

Carmen Aguirre was engaging and warm as Actor. Though she didn’t know where we were going, she took us there with confidence. Not to mention, her impression of a cheetah impersonating a dancing ostrich was truly a thing of beauty.

Finally, the audience plays a role in the show; called upon to do tasks such as note keeping and playing minor roles. No one escapes participation. Indeed, some by choice participate much more than others. Additionally, the audience is given Soleimanpour’s email address and invited to send photos of the performance and emails to the writer in Iran. He promises to reply to all should he still be in possession of the email address.

My two scoops and a cherry on top:

Scoop one: Vancity Culture Lab is an intimate space with the performance “stage” flush with audience seating. Audience is seated in cocktail style low and high top table arrangements perfect for this show, particularly.

Scoop two: Delicious hors d’oeuvres by sponsor Merchants Oyster Bar on Commercial Drive.

Cherry on top: Seeing my date for the evening in her debut stage role as Rabbit number three.

White Rabbit, Red Rabbit plays at the Cultch until September 30th 2012.