OzAsia Festival Review: Nassim

Most people think of experimental theatre as challenging and polarising but as Nassim proves, it can also be whimsical, funny and deeply moving. It’s a play about home, family and the power of language to both connect and separate us,

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Presented by: Adelaide Festival Centre and Bush Theatre
Reviewed 1 November 2018

Most people think of experimental theatre as challenging and polarising but as Nassim proves, it can also be whimsical, funny and deeply moving. It’s a play about home, family and the power of language to both connect and separate us, and if you intend to see it before the run finishes, you should probably stop reading here.

That’s because a large part of the joy of Nassim is watching it unfold in real time, each new development as unexpected for the actor as it is for the audience. And that’s entirely by intention. Playwright Nassim Soleimanpour wanted to capture the initial response of an actor, when emotion is raw and unfiltered, and to invite the audience to witness the joy of something new being created. It’s a task in which he has unequivocally succeeded.

Each night the play is performed by a new actor, script unseen. It’s the same conceit that Soleimanpour used in White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, but where that was borne of necessity, this time it is by design. For Nassim, he has inserted himself into the production and his presence, like the script, is notable for its gentle humour and warmth. This is a play about connection, and one gets the sense that he forges a new one at each performance.

That was certainly the case with Joel Ma, who was perfectly suited to the production. A musician by trade rather than an actor, he was happy to surrender control and follow Nassim’s instructions and the resulting performance was funny, vulnerable and surprisingly intimate. Towards the end of the show, the mute Soleimanpour announced through the script that “we are friends now”, and it seemed genuinely true as they walked off stage together.

The storyline, such as it is, centres around Soleimanpour’s childhood in Shiraz and his attempts to write a play for his mother in Farsi, their native tongue. We circle these topics playfully, learning simple words and phrases in Farsi and musing on the power of language to both connect and separate people. Though ambitious in execution, Nassim is thematically simple and this is what allows it to resonate universally. The method of delivery creates a sense of immediacy that is hard to create in a rehearsed production, and coupled with a script that is suffused with wit and pathos, forms a play that is an absolute joy to be a part of, for both audience and performer.

Reviewed by Alexis Buxton-Collins

Rating: 4/5

Venue: AC Arts Theatre
Season: Until 3 Nov 2018
Duration: 1 hour 15 mins
Tickets: $40 – $45
Bookings: https://www.ozasiafestival.com.au/events/nassim/

 

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