Theatre review: Nassim

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Edinburgh Festival Fringe: There’s a fierce discussion, on this year’s Fringe, about how to combat xenophobia and racism in all its forms; but I doubt whether any of the writers involved approach the subject more gently, or with more quietly transformative effect, than the Iranian writer Nassim Soleimanpour.

Traverse Theatre (Venue 15)


Although his own writing career has been shaped by political prohibitions and oppressions – forcing him to write at a distance for western audiences he once thought he might never meet – Soleimanpour rarely if ever writes directly about politics.

Instead, he often adopts a technique where a different actor each day, who has never seen the text before, works with an audience to create the show live on stage.

The writer is always present as the shaping force in this live process, even when he is at a distance; and in his latest show Nassim, Soleimanpour uses this technique with a rare brilliance, to build bonds between a live British audience and the tale – told in the style of a children’s story-book – of a little boy called Nassim, who lives in the beautiful city of Shiraz, loves his Mum, and sits with her on the balcony of their house, reading stories.

At last week’s press ­performance, the ­brilliant actor and writer Chris Thorpe led the audience through the performance, which not only makes brilliant use of simple visual images, but also works ­gently and powerfully to break down the idea of language difference as a barrier, and to introduce its English-speaking audience to elements of Farsi so simple, beautiful and recognisable – the word for “mum”, the word for “home” – that they become strong, indestructible bridges between the two ­cultures.

“Yeki bood, yeki nabood”, goes the Persian phrase for “once upon a time”; it’s how all good stories begin, not least the story of human connection and hope embodied in the very form of Nassim Soleimanpour’s work, and – perhaps – now also embedded in the heart of everyone who sees this remarkable show.

Until 27 August. Various times. Today 6:15pm.