White Rabbit, Red Rabbit - Theatre Haus

‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ // The X Collective

‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ was unpredictable.

The X Collective has boldly taken on the highly mysterious ‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ as their final production of 2022. Staged in the intimate Fate Container Studios in West End, this unique show had audiences, cast and director alike scratching their heads from beginning to end. 

Written by Iranian Nassim Soleimanpour, the play requires no rehearsals, no director and no set. The actors are sent an email 48 hours before the performance with vague instructions. They are not allowed to read the script until they are standing on stage in front of their audience. They are also not allowed to ever perform the show twice, nor are they allowed to have seen it before. 

Created in 2010, the play is shrouded in secrecy, though it has been performed over 2000 times in 25 different languages. Director Wayne McPhee has assembled a lineup of the finest talent from Brisbane and beyond to participate in this theatrical experience, including Eugene Gilfedder, Steven Tandy, Amanda Muggleton and Bernadette Pryde.

There was a palpable buzz of apprehension in the room, which was dressed simply with a red ladder, table and chair. The lighting choices of white and red kept the styling in line with the title of the play and coincidentally complemented the unfolding action very well. The intimate space enhanced the performances and McPhee kept a chair empty for the writer, as is custom for this play. The closeness of the audience allowed each person to feel a valuable part of the unexpected, unfolding performance.

Audience participation was a fundamental feature in the play and assisted in the connection between the writer, actor and audience, which becomes more powerful as the play progresses. The play is highly metaphoric and swings like a pendulum between comedy and drama, though even in the lighthearted moments a feeling of unease is somewhat present. The ending of the play is most unusual and leaves the audience with a very heavy feeling. In addition to this, some dark themes are discussed and a trigger warning for suicide is certainly necessary for this play.

Debuting the run of performers was Sandra Harman. She fearlessly took to the stage and ripped open the envelope containing the mystery-shrouded script. Her ability to perform a cold read with such emotion, physicality and cohesion was impressive and left the audience forgetting this was her first time reading the script. She delivered the lines with gravitas and comedy in all the right places and her connection with the audience and the writer was noticeable. This gave even more weight to the ending of the play and left the audience with high emotions and an overall feeling of unease.

The second performer was Sandro Colarelli. By this point, the audience was familiar with the script. This created a different feeling to the performance, as the audience suddenly became spectators to the unaware actor, watching him learn and uncover the play’s mysteries. Colarelli’s performance was more comedic and lighthearted than Harman’s. While the stakes did not feel as high during Colarelli’s performance, towards the end, the sinister mix of comedy and darkness brought a different embodiment to the text.

Overall, ‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ is a unique play for many reasons. The elimination of rehearsals, director and set leaves the actor vulnerable and allows the writer’s voice to be incredibly prominent. The play appeared to carry many metaphors and was certainly a thought-provoking experience. It was also an exercise in theatrical talent. The most inspiring thing about the play was watching accomplished performers flexing their acting muscles in perhaps the most nerve-racking experience of an actor’s life.

‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ performs until Sunday, 30 October 2022 at Fate Container Studio in West End. For more information and tickets, visit the ‘White Rabbit, Red Rabbit’ TryBooking link.

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