The Edinburgh Festival Fringe is the biggest arts festival in the world, with nearly 3,500 shows. This year, Playbill is in Edinburgh for the entire month in August for the festival and we’re taking you with us. Follow along as we cover every single aspect of the Fringe, aka our real-life Brigadoon!
As part of our Edinburgh Fringe coverage, Playbill is seeing a whole lotta shows—and we're sharing which ones you absolutely must see if you're only at the Fringe for a short amount of time. Consider these Playbill Picks a friendly, opinionated guide as you try to choose a show at the festival.
Usually shows rehearse their actors strenuously for weeks or months in preparation for the Fringe, but not this show. In NASSIM, everybody is experiencing the show for the first time, even the leading player. Every night a different actor takes the stage without a second of preparation or rehearsal, just the willingness to embark on this journey blind. At the top of the show, one of the ushers announces who our performer that evening will be. At the August 23 performance I attended, Scottish actor Greg McHugh was the brave volunteer. Unsure of what he got himself into, McHugh had to be ready for anything.
It all started with a single envelope prompting the actor to cold read the script and follow exactly what it says. The script is then projected on a large screen upstage and on it we see a pair of mysterious hands flipping through the ream of roughly 400 pages. For a quarter of the show, the unknown entity behind the projector doesn’t show his face until he is coaxed out onto the stage, and we finally meet the playwright, Nassim Soleimanpour.
Soleimanpour is an Iranian playwright. He details his own lived experiences through a new innovative form of storytelling, where everybody is involved. Soleimanpour is known for his play White Rabbit Red Rabbit, which he wrote when he was forbidden from traveling outside of Iran. Both plays follow a similar concept in which the performers read a script cold. NASSIM had a previous run in New York in 2019 and Phillipa Soo and Ashley Park were some of the actors who volunteered to read the script.
As a show, NASSIM is completely interactive, the actor and the audience learn simple phrases in Farsi and learns of the playwright’s culture, family, and feelings of otherness. Through his script, Soleimanpour shares his one mission, to create a play in his mother tongue, so that his māmān (mother in Farsi) would be able to read and understand his work.
The play ends with the actor reciting the short story to Soleimanpour’s mother on the other line of a call, which takes a very touching and emotional turn. When he read it, McHugh got choked up and was visibly holding back tears. There, we saw the impact of Soleimanpour’s work: A show that transcends language barriers, judgments, and differences and reminds us that we are all human.
NASSIM is full of profound revelation and a piece of theatre that has the power to change hearts and minds.
NASSIM has finished its Fringe run at the Traverse Theatre August 27. But it is continuing on a worldwide tour. Find out more information here.