Friday, 15 September 2017

Theatre Review: Nassim

Audible sobbing from multiple people in a theatre audience is a slightly disquieting phenomenom, even when you're contributing to it. It's also extremely moving.

Back at The Bush Theatre's Nassim Plays season for a second night this week, after Wednesday's touching, complex but raucous White Rabbit Red Rabbit, it also really wasn't what I was expecting. The set up for tonight's instalment, Nassim, also obviously by Iranian-born playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, is exactly the same: script in a sealed envelope, actor (in this instance Denise Gough) rocks up totally unprepared and performs said script to an equally oblivious audience. 

Here the similarities between WRRR and Nassim end however. Again, I don't want to say too much because, even more so this time, I don't want to give anything away. Playing with ideas of the unexpected is so key to Soleimanpour's work that it really does defy an easy review. Some spoiler free things I loved about Nassim, though, were it's more complex form, using video, music and a smartphone and, joyously, the appearance of the playwright himself. It gives nothing away to say that Nassim is an autobiographical piece and it's so incredibly poignant to have Nassim himself sat mute on the stage as someone else speaks his words, tells his story and expresses his feelings in a language that isn't his own (most of the time).

The themes explored here are extraordinarily deep and profound: the power (for good or ill) of language, loneliness, belonging and family. The heartbreaking idea of being a stranger in your homeland and feeling alone in a city of millions. The writing is simple but stunning and the emotional buttons that Nassim pushes are raw, universal and, as the sobbing will attest, deeply powerful. It is a hugely, almost uncomfortably, intimate thing to watch the actor involved discovering these buttons in real time. It is a stunningly good, completely unique and utterly beautiful play and it's produced so well by The Bush.

Somewhat shockingly, the one tiny quibble I had with the show I saw was the performer. I love Denise Gough, she's brilliant, but I didn't always feel she was as unconditionally present in the show as she could have been. Or to put it a less wanky way, I could have done with less of her commentary on the writing and less questioning of what was about to happen and more performing the writing and finding out what was about to happen. When she was performing the writing, though, she was superb. Particularly in the 'set piece', for want of a far better phrase, moments. She captured the emotion of these parts perfectly.

Nassim is a show that will stay with me for a very long time. And if I ever stop crying when I think about it I'll let you know. Huge congratulations to The Bush for reviving it, and indeed the other plays in the season. For one tiny theatre to give me an evening of cavorting Dominic West and an experience as profoundly moving as Nassim in the same week is pretty extraordinary.

The Nassim Plays finish at The Bush Theatre tomorrow, including one more chance to see Nassim (with Hari Dillon).

No comments:

Post a comment