White Rabbit, Red Rabbit plays again on Friday, February 1 at 9:30pm and Saturday, February 2 at 2pm at C103.
Before I start my review, there are a few things I think you should know.Firstly, I would advise those of you who are squeamish or triggered by suicide avoid the show. It is in no means graphic, but it will give you pause. Secondly, the Iranian playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour, has only just recently been issued a passport to leave his country. His words are meant to leave for him, to speak where he cannot. Being such, the audience is encouraged to email Nassim after the show to describe it to him. To tell him about the performance, which he cannot attend. My review is my letter to him.
Dear Nassim Soleimanpour,
You do not know me, but I feel after tonight, I have seen a glimpse into you. I was one of 39 people. No – that number isn’t quite right – 43, plus you, who participated in White Rabbit Red Rabbit on the evening of January 25, 2013. It is the middle of winter here in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada – however today it was only just hovering below zero degrees Celsius. I didn’t even wear my coat outside when I took an afternoon break from work. The 43 of us – this includes the techs, actress, and audience – took part in the performance at C103, just off Whyte Avenue.
I wasn’t quite sure what to think before I came to the show. All I knew was that the actress would be handed an envelope, and inside would be your words. She would have to perform them in front of us. I had no idea if whether these words of a man unable to travel – from a country so different from our own – would be hostile, educational or perhaps something not to my liking. I never expected what I experienced.
This photo is of Jon Paterson and Beth Dart. Jon is the Stage Manager (he also is an actor and stilt walker) as you see here, he is holding the script, in the sealed envelope, moments before the play would begin. He also holds a vial. I will not spoil the contents of it for those who have not seen the play – but they should be warned that it is life or death.
As we sit, the actress, your voice for the evening – a 30-something year old woman with a British accent, Belinda Cornish, enters. She opens the envelope, and the evening truly begins. Over the next hour, I cannot fully comprehend the emotions she brings to the delivery. She visibly tears up, she laughs, she acts like a cheetah, who acts like an ostrich. She is a storyteller, she is you, she is herself. She is the bear, the white rabbit, the red rabbit. She delivers a performance that I can only imagine is one of the best your script has ever possibly seen. By the end of the evening, I cannot possibly imagine that this incredibly talented woman had never seen the script before. And believe me, I asked.
Brilliant. Moving. Intense. The words Cornish gives life cause us all to reflect. I was told that the actors who perform are not allowed to drive themselves home after the show, and I would completely agree with whomever made that decision.
Your play left me without a solid conclusion. White Rabbit Red Rabbit is not a show that you leave feeling warm and fuzzy with. It is a half hour long discussion on the car ride home. It is pausing in long, contemplative thought.
It is also seeing your friend on stage making a rabbit face.
There were light moments. There are portions of audience participation. But what I found the most brilliant and amazing about your play, was that even those of us who did not participate, did.
And perhaps that’s what you intended. Perhaps your freedom exists in every single audience member taking a bit of you home with them. Your story, your thoughts.
White Rabbit Red Rabbit plays twice more during the Canoe festival. I will strongly be encouraging people to attend the two shows. I honestly feel sad that they will not see Cornish’s performance, as it is one of my favourite performances I have ever seen. However, I hear the next two to perform it, will also do so wonderfully.
Knowing now, after the performance, that you do have your passport, you are able to travel, does not change anything. It does not change your voice from the past speaking to present-day us. It doesn’t change the lack of freedom you felt.
Seeing White Rabbit Red Rabbit is, in itself, a celebration of our freedom. Our freedom to make decisions, to go see plays like it, to speak freely, to let our ears hang out from under our hats – and not to fear crows.
Thank you, Nassim, for sharing this play with us. For writing when you got a chance, for risking your life to follow your passion. White Rabbit Red Rabbit was a memorable experience, a play unlike anything I have ever seen before and doubt I will again.
Humbly and gratefully, I thank you.
Brittney Le Blanc, Audience member 34.
When Brittney isn’t trying to meet 5,000 people in one year, she is working at the Edmonton Journal on Capital Ideas. Formerly a radio journalist, she is used to putting herself out there and meeting lots of people in varied circumstances. When off the clock, she co-organizes Edmonton Girl Geek Dinners, volunteers for the Jerry Forbes Centre, Santas Anonymous, the Edmonton Public Schools Foundation and various other festivals, organizations and events. A proud Edmontonian, she will be the first to invite you to spin the giant baseball bat, loves exploring the city, and is actively pursuing ways to make the city even better. She enjoys doodling dinosaurs during meetings, drinking caffeinated beverages, adventures, pushing out of comfort zones, and is always looking for unicorns. Brittney loves attending shows around town, geeking out, social media, and cat-sits for so many friends that it is pretty much a hobby.