ET Phone Home
Nassim Soleimanpour is an Iranian playwright who has never performed his own plays in his native language. Even in his home country. Living in Berlin, working in English, his mother tongue Farsi, Soleimanpour understands the experience of the artist exiled at home and exiled abroad. Trying to transcend the dual distances of language and land, “Nassim” sees Soleimanpour attempting to bring people closer through the learning of Farsi. Such as the word “Nassim,” which means breeze. For a breeze cannot be confined by a net. A lightweight hour of teary eyed laughter “Nassim” sets out to push your emotional buttons. Indeed, learning a new language never felt so cute.
Directed by Omar Elerian, in “Nassim” we’re once again firmly in the territory of Soleimanpour’s White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, with a different performer each night taking to the stage to perform, without rehearsal, a script they have never seen before. If the idea felt fresh in White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, it feels a little convenient here, and with far less edge. This despite the heavy technological interplay, courtesy of Rhys Jarman’s design, which uses projections, cameras, and phones, as well as the eventual presence of a silent Soleimanpour himself. If there’s something ingenious in Soleimanpour’s well timed use of technology, text, and tomatoes, you always know what’s coming from a mile off.
While there's a lot of heart in the extremely likeable “Nassim,” it often feels deliberately overdone. Even allowing for Soleimanpour’s homesicknesses, “Nassim” deliberately plays on the cuteness factor, with its ‘Aws’ heavily laced with lashings of sentimental loveliness. Often feeling like an episode of Sesame Street directed for The Disney Channel, “Nassim” manipulates emotions even more than it manipulates technology, or the alternating performer, with its ET phone home moment consciously intent on pushing all your weepy buttons. You can almost hear John Williams’ overbearing soundtrack in the distance.
Those who like a feel good, Disney-esque, sentimental sugar rush, delivered with tonnes of laughter, will find much to enjoy here. Those preferring a lot less sugar in their emotional diet, despite the undeniable heartache at the centre of it all, probably won't. Either way, the unsuspecting performer is undoubtedly going to make a significant difference. Luckily, the wonderful Peter Daly brought genuine charm and a bewildered delight to proceedings on the day. As did Soleimanpour himself.
“Nassim” by Nassim Soleimanpour, presented by Nassim Soleimanpour and Bush Theatre, ran at The Project Arts Centre as part of Dublin Theatre Festival 2018