Wednesday, 7 March 2012

Making News in Oslo - in English!

Here is the English translation of Nassim's interview with Dagblade, posted earlier this week.

Dangerous Iranian “Bunny Drama”
The Iranian Nassim Soleimanpour has attracted attention in country after country with his play White Rabbit Red Rabbit over the last year. Now it has arrived in Oslo.

What do you do as an Iranian playwright who is critical of the regime, subject to censorship and denied his passport and exit visa?

Answer: Write

Nassim Soleimanpour (30) wrote a sensational monologue play White Rabbit, Red Rabbit while he was unable to leave his hometown of Tehran. Last year it premiered in New York and was followed by a series of successful runs in Edinburgh and Toronto. Tonight it will be premiere in Oslo.

Who is in control?

Not surprisingly given the playwright's situation White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is about the individual confronted with controlling forces and raises uncomfortable questions about both those who control and those being controlled. Oslo International Theatre has initiated an ambitious collaboration with six of the city's theatres who will each host a performance of this play. 

Six different actors will be in the spotlight, and won't be given the text until the show begins. 

“The play is based on my own situation in the five years when I wrote it” says Nassim Soleimanpour. Over the telephone from Tehran he explains:

“Because I refused to serve a mandatory two-year military service, I was denied a passport. That's how it works in Iran, so I knew I would not be able to travel with my piece. So I decided to shape it as a kind of game that does not require rehearsals or directing. It requires only a text and a 'cold' actor  for each performance.

How did you get the play passed the Iranian state censorship?

“It wasn't going to play in Iran, and was therefore not a censorship issue. But as soon as you want to show or publish anything in Iran there are some rules and boundaries that you must consider.”

What can you say about the relationship between artists and the Iranian authorities in Tehran?

“It's a long and complex story. On the one hand it's not so bad, it's not like the government has guns pointed at the artists heads all the time. But you can't write what you want. There are censorship rules and it can be dangerous to defy them. But above all, Iran has entered a historical period where the main question is about something bigger and more important than the relationship between the government, the theatre and the arts: it's about ordinary the lives and existence of ordinary people.”

What about your situation now? Do you still not have a passport?

“I got a passport two months ago, after a long and stupid story. After White Rabbit, Red Rabbit became popular in New York, I started to get good feedback from all over the world, and the play was eventually produced in so many countries that I decided to do the military service after all. Because of an injury to my left eye, I was rejected, but I got the passport.”

Are you developing new shows?

“Yes, two. One is a collaboration with a Greek friend who lives in Canada, the other is a monologue based on the structure of the party game Mafia. The first I started before "rabbits", but it's a long process, and I don't know when either of them will be finished.”

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