Blank! gets interactive theatre to a new level

NASSIM Soleimanpour’s Blank, which ran last weekend at the Damansara Performing Arts Centre, saw a new actor taking the audience on a different journey of experiences from July 5 till 7.

It was experimental theatre with which the Iranian playwright is making name for from his first outing, White Rabbit, Red Rabbit, staged in KL in 2014.

Blank, curated by Jo Kukathas and presented by the Instant Café Theatre Company, didn’t have a plot, or a set.

From a script which the actor saw for the first time that evening, the story unfolded with blanks for the audience to shout words out that could possibly fill it and complete the sentence. Some of the responses were funny, others came from the left field, and everyone seemed to have enjoyed themselves.

One volunteer is required to be the character, and on the night I attended with Ghafir Akhbar as the actor, no one put their hand up for that opportunity. So he chose randomly an audience member.

The young woman from Kuantan rose well to the occasion. She was called the character.

What unfolded through the blanks filled in the character, was basically her story. In White Arabbit, Nassim gave us insights into the concept of obedience to… the authorities, to life, to societal rules.

In Blank, people got to write their own plays, I guess. We learnt from that night’s character about her being a partying young person who got up at noon and thought Blank would be a fun thing to do, of her family, of school and friends.

The audience then filled in the blanks about a future, perhaps the character’s future. Starting from people in the last row, each had their turn to fill in a blank. When the person beside me, who was asked “next year you can see yourself in …” and she said “the Bahamas”, and it followed with “there you will find…”, I vetoed and the blank moved to the person beside me. Veto.. that made it still traditional theatre for the audience member who just wanted to observe.

Well, it was an improvisational script on a collective level.

The performance was a little like a monologue at times, as the actor has to read from the script his instructions, and reread them — as there was no rehearsal allowed.

It was tedious sometimes, but the lively audience helped make Blank entertaining, at the very least.

The audience, the actor Ghafir and the playwright created a new story – together. For a brief moment, people in the hall came together for some sweet interactive theatre

That night, the character’s story ended with her envisioned twilight years. At the end of it, the words to fill in the blanks in the script came from the character’s written choices. But chosen in most part by the actor. “The funeral of the character left everyone with “questions”, chose Ghafir. I would have gone with “vodka”. Silly me.

Blank remains indelibly is a Nassim and ICT theatre original. I didn’t have to ponder too much, and simply wallowed in a fun theatrical performance.

Cover pic: Nassim Soleimanpour. All pix courtesy of ICT

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