“This is a life story, and life knows no rehearsals.”
In the beautiful setting of the Anatomy Lecture Theatre in Summerhall, we are seated while actor, Joseph Morpurgo reads out a script he’s never seen before. Each performance has a different narrator, ensuring that apart from the producer, no one in the room knows what’s about to happen. When the word ‘blank’ appears in the script, either Morpurgo or audience members are encouraged to fill it in with a relevant answer creating infinite routes for the narrative to follow.
Iranian playwright Nassim Soleimanpour, as made obvious by the nature by the show, provides only a vehicle, widely driven by the answers and imaginations of the audience members present at each show. Each segment is directed by the answers that are suggested by those in the room, some funny, some not so.
After the shock of being chosen by Morpurgo, unsuspecting audience member Sarah writes down a series of snapshots from her life and tapes them to the blackboard behind her, prompted by the blanks in the script. What she chooses to share with is sometimes slowly considered, sometimes more spontaneous, and we laugh along with her through her awkward but brave spirit.
Of course the stars of the show are revealed to be ourselves as both audience members and writers, and Soleimanpour’s script creates a great incubator for reflective thought throughout the show. When presented with the blank, I’m sure we are all filling it in with past memories, childhood desires, or fears from our past, or of the future. Unlike the passive nature of a traditional theatre experience, the collaborative experience is as empowering as it is effective in its intent.
The script provides a playful mix of interaction and space for thought, signifying clever insight into how to create communities within participatory theatre. Soleimanpour’s carefully considered narrative weaves in and out of light and dark, which, even though directed by community answers, are clearly directed into sections of distinctly pensive and light-hearted moments.
Soleimanpour’s story machine churns out a unique narrative during each show, which lives and dies only in our presence. Although this concept is not new, its delivery, without any acting, or directorial presence, creates a feeling of joy that makes the experience feel brand new and exhilarating.
Blank is a masterclass in audience participation, creating a unique setting for storytelling, community and how human identity is formed.
Blank is playing Summerhall until August 28.