All the audience knows as they queue in the Traverse’s atmospheric underground bar is that they are going to see an actor tackle a script thus far unseen to him. Each day of the festival, a different actor takes on the challenge so as to maintain the unseen element of the premise. This is one of those ideas that could either surprise everybody with its success, or fall flat. Fortunately, Nassim is in the former category.
Also fortunate is that, contrary to the synopsis above, this is not simply an actor reading any old script. This script is written and presented in such a way that it takes the audience, via the unsuspecting actor onstage, on a journey. The laughs come thick and fast, especially in the opening quarter of the play, which serves as an almost painfully comedic introduction (for audience and actor) to the play’s unique format. Soleimanpour’s script allows room for small moments of improv and input on the actor’s part – enough so that their personality can shine through, but not so much that the production strays far from its predestined path or runs over its allotted 70 minutes.
With a deftness of touch many Hollywood bigshots could only dream of, the focus shifts from – though never entirely leaves behind – Nassim’s wickedly playful sense of humour, and becomes more concerned with the enigmatic Nassim himself. So far, we have only seen his hands, via the big screen, as he flips page after page of the script for us and the actor to read; yet as time goes on it seems more and more likely that we must meet the man sooner or later.
The playwright’s own bittersweet story is gradually revealed, and its themes are ones we can all relate to: language and language barriers, home and homesickness, family and friends. However, just as Nassim takes a painful yet nostalgic look back at his strained relationship with his home country of Iran, he can also look forward with some degree of hope; by the end Nassim has made a wealth of new friends, not only in each day’s new cast member but in the audience too.
The balanced stance he takes towards both past and future eventually comes to the age-old conclusion of carpe diem¸ seize the day: it would be a crime to disagree while witnessing such a brave and thoroughly enjoyable exercise in creativity. Just sit back and enjoy every moment of this unique journey.
Until 27th August (not 21st)
To find out more, go to the Traverse website
Photo credit: David Monteith-Hodge