By Isabella Fraser
Blank is the new play from Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, of White Rabbit, Red Rabbit fame. Using the same set up – read and performed from an unseen script by a different actor every night, undirected and unfolding in the moment – the premise is an interesting and exciting one. With Blank, the audience is asked to participate at particular moment, filling in parts of the text with their own comments and interpretations, while one audience member in particular has a larger role to fill.
On the evening of review, the performer is Mickey Bartlett, a charming and entertaining Irish comedian, who reads and interacts very well with the audience. This starts off well, as the audience is aware of the newness involved – it is explained at the very beginning of the performance. However, as the text unfolds this is where the anticipation begins to fade. There are some interesting questions and some that are just… average although the audience responds as best they can.
In many ways, this particular play is about the human condition, that lives have no rehearsal but happen in the moment and so too the play unfolds in the same way looking at past, present and future. However, the content is the problem – there is no spark, as the flutter of anticipation fades in awareness that the questions being asked have answers that are unlikely to be as full and challenging as the premise anticipated.
Human beings are naturally curious: about life, about other people and particularly about how others live their lives. The proliferation of magazines, news articles and TV shows which focus on the lives of famous – or infamous – people, is a clear indication of that curiosity. Therefore, the instinct of the playwright and his text is a good one; unfortunately it falls down in being a little too reserved – or perhaps – overly delicate in its exploration of the subject matter.
Does the audience leave the space still thinking about what unfolded? Undoubtedly, but that in itself does not a full exploration make. Nonetheless, this play will be different every night – different performer, different audience and perhaps different reveals: there is potential and perhaps that is what the intention is after all – the potential we all have, depending on the circumstances we exist in.
Blank runs until 28 August (not 22) at Summerhall @ 18:30. Running time is approximately 1 hour 30 minutes. Suitable for all ages.