NASSIM, written and performed by Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, stopped over in Adelaide during the OzAsia Festival for three performances on its two hundred day world tour. Lauded for his unconventional plays including White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, Soleimanpour has with NASSIM excelled in this unconventionality to create an hour long unique and truly unforgettable performance that fuses humour, education, culture and sentimentality.
Walking into the AC Arts Theatre and across the stage to our seats, the minimalist set consisting of a solitary microphone stand, a table, a chair, a red X on the floor and a projection screen did not offer much insight into what was expected. All we knew was that there was a new performer for each performance who had never seen let alone read the script nor rehearsed it…so pretty much most actors’ worst nightmare come to life.
Alex Lee, comedian, television presenter and actor with an impressive resume including the television shows The Feed, The Checkout and The Angus Project, was introduced as this show’s performer. She walked out on stage with a water bottle and oddly an iPhone which seemingly detracted from the overall atmosphere of the show, but which was later revealed to be a necessity of it. From the onset, Lee and the audience were informed that the 456 page script, sealed in an envelope, was originally written in Farsi, the playwright’s native language, had been translated and was to be read for the performance. A heavily pregnant Lee appeared understandably nervous but equally enthused to tackle this challenge. It was this enthusiasm and her complete dedication which assisted in creating something memorable.
What occurred over the course of the hour long performance was the evolution of friendship between total strangers as we bonded via the Farsi language and a stranger’s personal story. Every person within that theatre had the pleasure of learning Soleimanpour’s native tongue with Lee’s guidance and in the process gained insight about the lives of the two, particularly Soleimanpour. Our vocabularies expanded, and our hearts swelled with what we saw. There was laughter shared and tears shed. A lot of tears, not only by audience members who at multiple times throughout the show were seen dabbing their eyes, but also by Lee who openly expressed her emotions more than once.
NASSIM’s script ensured the star performer was indeed the star of the show. From the opening sequence that focused on friendship to the emotionally raw and tear jerking conclusion, Lee simply shone as she was steered by Soleimanpour in an unknown direction. Her candour, humour and inability to follow directions were endearing and played a significant role in the play’s rollercoaster journey. She was a delight to watch.
There is so much that can be written about NASSIM once the plot has been revealed however I will adopt the viewpoint of #NoSpoliers for those yet to experience it. Suffice to say that it was an honour to be a part of the unique theatrical experience, an experience that will remain with me and many others forever. It truly is a stand out performance of this year’s OzAsia Festival.
OzAsia Review by Anita Kertes