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Edinburgh Festival Fringe 2017 Theatre Reviews 3 - Nassim - Traverse Theatre - Five stars / The Believers Are But Brothers - Summerhall - Four stars / Salt - Summerhall - Four stars

Anyone who is a fan of the international phenomenon of White Rabbit Red rabbit since it first appeared several years ago should immediately rush to Nassim, Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour's latest work. Like its predecessor, Soleimanpour's play features a different actor at every show performing a script they have never seen until that moment.

In keeping with the spirit of the piece, it would be wrong to give away what happens next, except to say that the performer at the first show was Chris Thorpe, who leapt into proceedings with an all embracing vigour that saw him go willingly into the unknown. In some ways, such open-ness sums up everything about Soleimanpour's play for the Bush Theatre, London, which is introduced by director Omar Elerian. What follows is a delicate series of witty interactions, which gradually through Thorpe reveal a heartfelt plea for understanding through learning about cultures we might not initially understand.

Soleimanpour doesn't do this by making grand polemical statements, but cuts through to the basic domestic support systems anyone from any country should empathise with. It's this international language of sharing that makes Nassim such a special experience.
Until August 27.

The internet is a dangerous place in The Believers are But Brothers, Javaad Alipoor's hi-tech meditation on men, politics and a virtual world where make believe war-gaming is just a click away from real life radicalism. Using an array of screens with both live feeds and archive news footage, Alipoor shows through three characters how easy it is to be a big man in a virtual world, but also how real life consequences can be world-changing.

It begins and ends with a WhatsApp dialogue with the audience on their mobile phones. Inbetween, Alipoor dissects how online intimidation works using a mix of journalistic research and criss-crossing narratives between continents and religions. Coming from a British Muslim perspective, Alipoor's world-view is full of wit and a healthy rationale spurred on by a restless curiosity about what makes extremists tick.

The most telling and funniest moment of the show comes when he reveals that he actually wanted to make a work that focused on women, but that none of them he tried to contact through online chat groups wanted to know. It's in part from recognising the ridiculousness of this that makes this such an intelligent show. Given that all that online hate speech comes in part from a hyper organised network of easily led trolls who wouldn't usually say to to a terrorist, the geek may yet inherit the earth.
Until August 26.

Selina Thompson opens Salt, her excavation of her own history as a black British woman with a warning that she'll be using a sledge-hammer during the course of the show, so the first three rows will have to wear safety goggles. She says it so sweetly that it's a bit of a shock when she comes to smash the symbolic rocks of salt that represent the hierarchical chain of everyday racism that still lingers where you least expect it.

In 2014, Birmingham born Thompson and a film-maker friend embarked on a cargo ship to visit Ghana and Jamaica, exploring the key points of the slave trade which brought her family to Britain. As she travels, she is forced to square up a sea captain and his crew who appear to have stepped out of some neanderthal men only crew. Out of this comes an anger, but, as she travels further, it channels into a rich and enlightening experience which ultimately results in this show.

Thompson relays all this with a playful charm that grows ever stronger over the show's hour. Her unwillingness to have her history co-opted or else swept away is as important as her home in England. The calls to her dad are a particular delight in this respect. By the end, the power Thompson wields, both onstage and off, is formidable and heroic, no sledge-hammer required.
Until August 26.

The Herald, August 9th 2017

ends


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