White Rabbit Red Rabbit

Good Chance Encampment, Southbank, London (****)

© Sarah Hickson, Cush Jumbo and audience members as rabbits...

© Sarah Hickson, Cush Jumbo and audience members as rabbits…

`When future generations study this troubled era of history they may be asked to consider “Where was hope? Where was humanity?” – Good Chance Theatre and its many wonderful contributors and creators should be somewhere near the top of that list.’

So writes Jude Kelly, the Southbank Centre’s own dynamic and visionary artistic director in the booklet accompanying Encampment, Good Chance Theatre’s nine day residency by the river.

For nine days, Good Chance, the company set up in Calais’ `jungle’ refugee camp by playwrights Joe Murphy and Joe Robertson to bring hope to those displaced by war and persecution, brought a gamut of events to Kelly’s doorstep, only one of which, the penultimate one sadly, was caught by your reviewer.

© Sarah Hickson, Cush Jumbo

© Sarah Hickson, Cush Jumbo

Iranian Nassim Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit Red Rabbit has been performed world wide since its debut in 2011. A mischievous love letter to the art of theatre-making in which writer, performer and audience each have a part to play, the ever rising, fabulous Cush Jumbo (Taming of the Shrew/Julius Caesar and her own one-woman solo show, Josephine and I) brought a wonderfully sly, brave wit to a performance in which she was asked to deliver lines sight unseen before opening the script on stage.

Soleimanpour writes with extraordinary immediacy as though he were actually present and in a sense he is: his writing, he tells us, is a way of creating a future from a present shrouded in uncertainty, danger and political repression. He is even denied a passport, so in a very real sense this script is his passport to the outside world. His words will carry beyond to a future in which, when we hear them, he may or may not still be alive.

Cush Jumbo restored to health at the end of White Rabbit Red Rabbit in the Dome, Good Chance Encampment, Aug 2016

Cush Jumbo restored to health at the end of White Rabbit Red Rabbit in the Dome, Good Chance Encampment, Aug 2016

Despite the underlying pessimism – and it gets darker still as Soleimanpour’s directions place the performer in imminent danger of their own life – White Rabbit Red Rabbit’s madcap, absurdist narrative (suffice to say it involves bears, ostriches, as well as the aforesaid rabbits) becomes in Good Chance’s canvas dome tent, 60 minutes of utterly beguiling, carefully choregraphed mayhem – part circus, part playgroup, part adult charades and accessible to all.

Art as life-saving? You betcha…

Review first published in Reviewsgate, Aug 2016

White Rabbit Red Rabbit was the penultimate event in Good Chance’s Encampment which ran July 30-Aug 7, 2016 in the Dome (#IntheDome), on the Southbank, London as part of its annual Festival of Love.