Actor Rajit Kapur’s new play is lying in a sealed envelope. It will be before the audience, as the house lights dim, that the actor will see his lines for the first time. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is an experimental solo play that has become one of theatre world’s best-kept secrets, with even the gregarious social media leaking out little. “What is it about? How to do it? I have no idea? I am in the dark,” says Kapur (pictured). He will be on stage as part of the Old World Theatre Festival, in association with The Indian Express, on October 16. “You have to think on your feet, you have to decide then and there what you have to do,” says Kapur. Forty-eight hours before the show, he will receive an email asking him to prepare only an animal impersonation.
The play was created by Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour when he was banned from travelling overseas for refusing to do military service. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit captures the conflict of his generation — he was 29 at the time — that has grown up amid the Iraq-Iran war, and is wired to the world through the Net but lives in an Islamic state.
“Reviewers have been admonished not to give away much about what transpires during these 75 minutes, so my hands are tied, to a certain degree. Maybe this is appropriate, since the play comments implicitly on the strictures that all artists — indeed, all citizens — in Iran and other authoritarian states must confront and negotiate on a daily basis ,” says the New York Times about the play.
The closest Kapur has come to the play’s unusual format is “during rehearsal, when the director tells you to continue and the scene is not written beyond a point”. White Rabbit, Red Rabbit is performed by a different actor every time. “We knew that QTP had the rights and we had expressed a wish to do the play. It was performed by Atul Kumar and Ali Fazal as part of Writer’s Bloc Festival 2016. I have not seen any of the performances,” says Kapur. Before Kapur is an illustrious line of performers who have experienced the uncertainty of the play since it opened at the Edinburgh Fringe in 2011 — Oscar-winning actor Whoopi Goldberg, Cynthia Nixon of Sex and the City, and, in August this year, Stana Katic from Castle. In India, the play has also been performed by veteran actor Arundhati Nag.