A striking variety of performers will bring Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour’s play, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit to life at the State Theatre Centre’s Studio Underground from Tuesday, September 2. However, only the vaguest outline of the material is known – even to the performers. We reached out to opening night actor Sam Longley in the hopes of shedding some light on the subject.
“Here’s the trick,” says veteran comedian and actor Sam Longley. “I don’t know because the whole point is that I don’t know. Literally the only thing that I know is that the title is White Rabbit, Red Rabbit and the writer seems to be of Middle Eastern descent. that’s all I know. I don’t know if there’s just me on stage, I don’t know if there’s multiple actors on stage. I don’t know what the play is about. I. Don’t. Know. You know more than I do – you’ve read the press release. It’s a tricky one, man.”
He’s speaking of the play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, a stage play written by Iranian author Nassim Soleimanpour and inspired by his experiences after his passport was cancelled as a result of his refusal to do national service. Each night a different performer will take centre stage; following on from Longley’s opening night turn, the likes of Alicia Osyka, Kyle Morrison, Monica Main and Mark Storen will tread the boards. Even Greens Senator Scott Ludlam is taking a shot. The thing is, none of them will so much as see the script before they step onto the stage; the content is completely unknown.
“Perth Theatre Company reached out to me, asked me if I would do it, and I said yes because it’s one of those challenges as an actor that just don’t come along.” Longley says. “I do improv comedy, I do it every Saturday night up at The Brisbane Hotel (at The Big HOO-HAA!), I’ve been a stage actor for nearly 20 years, so I’ve worked with scripts where you have a rehearsal time and you get to really understand your character and figure out the whole show, but I’ve also been improvising since I was 17. So I’m used to being on stage with absolutely nothing, but this is a mixed beast.
“There is a script,” he continues. “But you don’t get any time to learn it. All the tools you would normally use as an actor are, to a certain degree, taken away from you and most of the tools you would use as an improviser are taken away from you. I’m guessing that the tools that are left, I assume the play is written so that the tools you have left are just used to maximum effect, and that is just really exciting for an actor. Because we can get safe, as actors. We can make safe choices and find a character that we’ve really inhabited and researched and all the rest, but when you have no control over it – god, that’s going to be fun! and nerve-wracking and frightening.”
There is one more clue to the proceedings, although Longley hasn’t received it yet. “I have been told that two days before the show I get something, but I’m not sure what that something is. It might literally just be some costuming. I don’t know what they’ll send me, but they’re certainly not sending me the script. So I’m not preparing at all. I think that’s what the play requires, and there’s nothing I can prepare for. I’ve trained as an actor and I’ve trained as an improviser.” He pauses. “f it’s song or dance, I am royally fucked, but I don’t think it’s gonna be either of those two. God, I hope it’s not.”