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White Rabbit Red Rabbit review at the Good Chance Dome, London – ‘powerful’

Cush Jumbo in White Rabbit Red Rabbit at the Good Chance Dome, London. Photo: Sarah Hickson Cush Jumbo in White Rabbit Red Rabbit at the Good Chance Dome, London. Photo: Sarah Hickson

Here’s a tantalising theatrical provocation that not only breaks down all walls between stage and audience and directly implicates us in the fate of its completely unprepared narrator, but also intimately reveals the vulnerability and playfulness of that performer.

In the theatre, the actor, at least, typically knows the script and therefore the destination of the story they are there to tell. But in White Rabbit Red Rabbit, the actor surrenders to a different concept: they are in the dark as much as we are, until they are in the very moment of its performance. They open a sealed envelope containing the script they are there to perform when they arrive on stage. It contains all instructions, stage directions and dialogue – some of it for the audience itself, who are pressed into active service at different points.

A lot depends on the surprise to both parties, so – as with Harry Potter and the Cursed Child – its important in talking about it to #KeeptheSecrets and not reveal what actually happens. There’s a meta-theatre sense of adventure here, but it also conceals a narrative about censorship, confinement and freedoms that we take for granted. Written by Nassim Soleimanpour, whose refusal to do compulsory military service means he has been unable to gain a passport and is therefore confined to Iran, it’s a powerful statement about the power of art to travel instead.

Fittingly presented as part of the Good Chance Dome’s brief residency outside the Royal Festival Hall, which was previously pitched for six months among Calais refugees, this is a resonant piece about what displacement means. And for one night only, London saw the welcome return of Cush Jumbo – previously seen at the National Theatre, Donmar Warehouse and Bush Theatre. She has now voluntarily displaced herself to New York, where she has had a starring role in The Good Wife; and she was bold, brave and utterly brilliant.

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Powerful monologue performed by a deliberately unprepared actor is a risk that pays off massively