‘Nassim’ at Arts Centre Melbourne

Nassim is one of the plays that works best the less you know about it. In fact, mystery is baked into this play’s premise.

It begins with a brief intro: a producer invites the guest actor on stage (each performance will have a different guest actor), and the rules are confirmed. Open the big cardboard box on the stage, take the script out of an envelope, and go.

For this performance, Alison Bell (from ABC’s The Letdown) shared with the audience the same bewilderment and giddy excitement about what comes next. We learn that the rules state there has been no rehearsals, and neither Alison or we know what’s in that script.

Rather than taking the 400-plus pages (of Act 1!) and reading them, Alison is directed to read out dialogue and stage direction projected on a screen. The image is captured by a camera off-stage, with the playwright himself turning A4 pages over in real time. What starts out as a monologue develops into a three-way conversation between actor, audience and the eponymous Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour. The screen projection is an absolutely clever implementation of technology and medium to enhance the heartfelt messages he transmits.

Nassim blends a biographical with a sentimental lesson in how breaking down cultural and language barriers can reveal a universal language of humanity. Soleimanpour was once an artist who could not perform his work in his own country and had to write for actors to speak on his behalf. Now he lives in Berlin, and is free to travel, though still asking others tell his story. More than a gimmick, it makes it easier for us empathise with his experiences as a young boy who would read stories with his mother to become a teller of stories himself, ostracised from his country.

The slant is never political, the focus being family and language. We get to meet Nassim himself in the second act, and through lessons in Farsi, and plenty of collaboration from the audience, we are taught lessons about feelings and difficulties of expression that are constantly upbeat if not outright humorous. Don’t be surprised if you shed some tears too. Without revealing much, be prepared to be constantly surprised and amused as to how far-reaching Nassim’s dialogues will take you.

– Christian G.
Christian is an international man of mystery; lover of books, cats, and the performing arts; moonlighting as a finance professional by day.

Nassim runs 23-28 January 2018 at Arts Centre Melbourne. Runtime: 70mins. Buy tickets now.
The venue is accessible. 

Disclosure: The Plus Ones were invited guests of Arts Centre Melbourne.
Image credit: Boat Rocker Entertainment.