When we stare at screens scrolling through news feeds and cast our mind in despair upon the waves of conflict that seemingly never stop crashing down upon the Middle East, we could perhaps be guilty for forgetting amid the atrocity that these people, though circumstance defines them as different, are people, with families, loved ones, history and cultures that are rich and steeped in tradition. Much like us. Nassim Soleimanpour is one such person, born in Iran, and also a playwright, and much like his name, which means “breeze”, he has for years now sent his work out across the world in sealed envelopes. His most recognised work was presented whilst he was imprisoned as a conscientious objector for refusing to complete Iran’s compulsory military service.
His latest offering, simply called Nassim, is a play, which for the actor or actress at hand, is an unknown commodity, they enter the performance space, and discover the material in the same succession and time as the audience, it could be said that this work borders on being more an experiment than anything else. Regardless, it’s a damn beautiful work, which touches upon subjects that are as political as they are emotional, without ever needing to paint in the detail.
A courtship between actor, writer, screen and spoken word, its clever in the way it plays with space, and delivers a slippery discourse through a simple and ingenious unfolding of stories. Here is a power inherent in basic cross learning of dialect. We bridge divides in both English and Farsi. We laugh as we warm to an unusual and intimate friendship. This simple mix of script, base acting and audience involvement with unexpected life calls to the playwright’s mother powerful with in its heartfelt humanity struggling to celebrate in a world so bent to separate and disenchant.
As the season continues, each night Soleimanpour will be joined by a different performer. On opening night audience were treated to one of Australia’s most talented actresses, Alison Bell. There are moments within the performance where you can tell that our thoughts correlate, these teeter upon a physical outpouring of emotion, as this powerful and unflinching reality that remains unspoken, finds resonance. Though in perfect contrast, the darker undertones are balanced with others more light, Soleimanpour’s dexterity within the emotional subtext and landscape proves to be one of the most blinding performances presented in Melbourne for some time.
Powerful, emotive and politically potent, Nassim, is indeed a rare kind of performance but one that is necessary, respondent and urgent.