Thursday, 10 August 2017

EDINBURGH FRINGE REVIEW: Nassim at the Traverse Theatre


Nassim Soleimanpour’s self-titled fourth play is a fantastically exciting theatrical experiment which sees a different performer take the stage each day, unrehearsed and having never read the script. This was Monica Dolan’s turn. Known for her appearances on television, including W1A, and premiering her own solo show The B*easts in Edinburgh this summer, she bravely launched herself into the unknown. 

Introduced by a producer of the show, Dolan was told to open a large box to find within it the four-hundred-page script for the performance. She opened the box; within it was a simple page containing an instruction. Her first response… ‘Do I have to obey it?’ This wonderfully set off the piece in which both performer and audience are asked to be complicit in its making.

Soleimanpour’s plays have never been performed in his own country, Iran, or his own language, Farsi. This audacious play deals with language and how one’s mother tongue connects to deeply rooted emotions. Soleimanpour and director Omar Elerian draw a parallel between having one’s own mother tongue denied and it somehow denying a playwright their heart’s voice, reflected in the telling of the story by a literally speechless Soleimanpour using each performer as a vessel. It is playfully, whimsical and, appropriately, moving beyond words. 

Throughout the piece, the writer keeps control of the script, turning the pages which are projected onto a screen, stage directions and all. Having a different performer each night may seem to have become a popular contemporary theatre gimmick, but in this case it is integral to the piece. Each new performer gives a voice to the story, and as the piece develops it becomes a wonderful conversation between performer and writer, via the text, where all are struggling to make themselves understood. Nassim, a name which translates to meaning ‘breeze’, is a vibrant and surprising celebration of the liveness of theatre. 

For Soleimanpour, it is clear he has seen first hand how language can drive us apart. In Nassim, his greatest achievement is using language to bring us together. It is smart, observant and charming, and packs a real emotional punch. Urgent storytelling for a divided world.

Review by James Andrews 

Rating: ★★★★★
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